US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
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US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1 recently arrived in the South China Sea to promote freedom of travel on the high seas, as China tightens its grip on the region with its increasingly potent navy.


The strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, an entire destroyer squadron, and an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

A US Navy carrier strike group represents one of the most powerful naval units in the world, and China has taken notice.

Related: What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.

But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.

The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five and the Republic of Korea Navy during exercise Invincible Spirit, October 2016. | US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news

“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.

The US deployment to the South China Sea comes just days after Chinese warships withdrew from military drills in the region.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

The Veterans Affairs Department’s watchdog said Oct. 3 it is reviewing Secretary David Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe with his wife that mixed business meetings with sightseeing.


Shulkin disclosed last week he traveled to Denmark and England to discuss veterans’ health issues. Travel records released by VA show four days of the trip were spent on personal activities, including attending a Wimbledon tennis match and a cruise on the Thames River. The VA said Shulkin traveled on a commercial airline, and that his wife’s airfare and meals were paid for by the government as part of “temporary duty” expenses.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A spokesman for VA inspector general Michael Missal described the review as “preliminary.”

Shulkin is one of several Cabinet members who have faced questions about travel after Tom Price resigned as health chief.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. Photo from MajorityWhip.gov.

Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said the travel activities had been approved as part of an ethics review.

“The secretary welcomes the IG looking into his travel, and a good place to start would be VA’s website where VA posted his full foreign travel itineraries, along with any travel on government or private aircraft,” Cashour said.

The site lists Shulkin’s travel itineraries but does not detail costs to the government.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sergeant Slaughter really was a sergeant of Marines

As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.


Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.

The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.

He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.

It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.

Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US officials blame Iran for using child soldiers

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.

“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).


“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”

The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.

“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.

The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.

Iran’s reaction

Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.

Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.

“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.

Measures welcomed

Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.

“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”

A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.

“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.

Effects of sanctions

But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.

“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.

He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”

Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.

“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.

“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.

Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”

“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 27

It’s nearly Halloween. You know what that means…


Just a few more weeks until the Veteran’s Day free food extravaganza.

Until then, tide yourself over with the best military memes your veteran buddies could muster.

1. American and British vets went to Meme War this week. (via Fill Your Boots)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Sick burn. No, really…

2. Maybe red uniforms weren’t the best idea. (via The Salty Soldier).

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
When you plow the fields by 6 but have a battle for independence at 8.

3. We were Facebook once… and young. (via Pop Smoke)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
I don’t like to talk about my time on MySpace.

4. How long can sick call put a superhero on quarters?

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Is that curl in regs?

5. To be fair, Amazonians get better training. (via Decelerate Your Life)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Americans don’t join the IDF because they’re Jewish.

6. I’d like to see blueberries fool Snoop.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
I’m shook.

7. Marry that girl. (via Disgruntled Decks)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
#relationshipgoals.

8. The military, where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. (via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

9. But I’m not bitter. (via Pop Smoke)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
I might be a little bitter.

10. Time is a flat circle.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
I’d rather deploy to Mars than go back to Iraq.

11. Why would you buy a can of Army?

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Shoulda bought a bottle of Air Force.

12. Always ready… for your deployment.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Low blow, Coastie.

13. Come at me, fam. (via Disgruntled Decks)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Except the Coast Guard. That meme was savage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.


The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.

A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.

It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.

The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Sea of Japan / East Sea between North Korea and Japan.

It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.

A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.

It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.

Also read: This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.

The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.

Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):

“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.

“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”

She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.

“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.

Related: It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.

She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”

Further reading: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.

The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.

It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.

He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.

“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.

“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”

Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.

“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”

Articles

Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.


Our nation expects a great deal from its military, but it comes at a cost. Air Mobility Command — the organization responsible for airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and enroute support — is constantly faced with challenges testing the resilience of our airmen.

Whether airdropping combat supplies, fueling fighters and bombers on the way to destroy terrorist camps, or aiding natural disaster victims around the world, Mobility airmen perform the mission with professionalism and at great personal risk and sacrifice.

I’m painfully aware our airmen have been subject to high operations demand for quite some time. Most are tired, as are their families. They do what we ask them to do, and they are always there, conducting the mission professionally, selflessly and with great effect.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Capt. Michael Kerschbaum, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot and 1st Lt. Renn Nishimoto, a pilot with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, taxi a KC-135 to the runway at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen

However, a concern is how much longer they can sustain the pace and whether they will leave our Air Force.

The manning shortage extends beyond fighter pilots. What happens when we face a potential exodus of mobility skill and talent? Consider approximately 1,600 mobility pilots are eligible to leave the military in the next four-plus years. We are already more than 300 total force mobility pilots short of what we need today.

Commercial airlines are projected to be short 16,000 pilots by 2020. The math demonstrates the challenge is not looming, it is here. The time to find solutions is now.

A Pilot Shortage

This is a national problem with real security implications. As a result of new safety regulations, increased experience requirements, and attrition through commercial airline pilot retirement, experienced aviators are in high demand.

Mobility pilots are some of the best in the world and represent a lucrative talent pool for the civilian industry. As a natural feeder system for the airlines, we lose talent as civilian airlines’ needs increase.

This comes at a time when our airmen are feeling the strain. Consider aerial refueling tanker pilots as an example. These professionals flew nearly 31,000 tanker missions in support of operations in Iraq and Syria alone. We ask them to do this with a 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker or vintage KC-10 Extender aircraft, relying on the strong backs and tremendous pride and skill of our maintainers.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

Many yearn for newer equipment; consistent work schedules; family, personal time; and a homestead. Many believe that commercial pilot life offers the potential to achieve balance.

The need for skilled military and civilian pilots will put us in an unfortunate and natural competition with our industry partners — not a good position for either party.

Pilots departing is a problem, but if they don’t consider serving in the Reserves and Guard, that problem becomes a crisis. If our airmen don’t continue to serve with our total force partners, the active force will face additional strain.

Productive dialogue can help us find great opportunities amidst the challenges, but it requires industry, academia, and airman ingenuity.

Recently, I sat down with some of our airline partners to begin this discussion, and I am confident that this is a start toward better understanding and a collaborative approach to improving circumstances.

We are focused not only on the pilot shortage challenges, but also addressing aircraft maintainer shortages.

Air Mobility Command never fails to deliver rapid global mobility anywhere, anytime. The mobility mission is similar to an offensive line in football. When the capability isn’t there, everyone notices, and scoring — or, in our case, striking a target, delivering relief or helping to save a life — wouldn’t occur.

The value of mobility airmen to national defense is critical.

This issue calls for a national dialogue and understanding before strain becomes breakage, and national objectives and security are at risk.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New bill would cover cost of service dogs for veterans with PTSD

Lawmakers and veterans advocacy groups are ready for change after waiting nearly a decade for the Department of Veterans Affairs to change its policy on not reimbursing service dogs for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would require the VA to offer $25,000 vouchers to veterans suffering with PTSD for use at qualifying nonprofits. Currently, the VA only supports service dogs for use in mobility issues, not in cases that only involve mental health conditions.


In 2010, Congress mandated the VA study the use of service dogs for PTSD and other mental health problems. But the pilot was suspended twice when two service dogs bit children and some dogs experienced health issues. The department has since started the study back up, but the results won’t be published until next year.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

Now with an estimated 20 veterans committing suicide a day, bill authors Rep. John Rutherford, R-Florida, and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, are hoping service dogs help reduce the tragic numbers.

“Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight,” Fischer said in a news release. “Service dogs can provide support, peace, and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war.”

These grants would help expand the reach of nonprofits currently training and connecting service dogs to veterans with a mental illness, often for free.

The act so far has a bipartisan group of 37 cosponsors. But a similar bill introduced three years ago didn’t get out of committee.

For Rory Diamond, CEO of one of the K9 for Warriors, one of the largest nonprofits that would be affected by this legislation, it’s taken the VA too long to change its policy that “there is not enough research to know if dogs help treat PTSD and its symptoms.”

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

“People are always asking me what is it the dogs actually do,” Diamond said. “The genius of the dog, or the magic, is it gets the warrior out the front door. You have a reason to get up in the morning because the dog needs to be fed and walked.”

The service dog can also help a veteran feel secure in a crowd, he added, and help them get a better night’s sleep by waking them up at the first sign of a nightmare.

Dogs alone do not necessarily cure veterans, but recent studies from the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institutes of Health showed service dogs have had a positive effect.

“Now we have a growing body of research that says the VA needs to do this. That the dogs are working,” said Diamond, whose organization helped with one of the studies. “We did rigorous studies on our warriors, and it was published in a prestigious journal, peer reviewed. It’s not made-up monkey science. It’s just real science.”

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

K9s for Warriors is the nation’s largest nonprofit connecting veterans to service dogs. Its program trains rescue dogs to be service dogs for post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma.

(K9s for Warriors)

A VA spokesman said via email the department does not take positions on research done by groups outside of their purview.

“We strive to complete research at VA according to the highest ethical and scientific standards with a focus on the safety of Veterans and their families,” the official said.

The VA’s first report will be released early summer 2020 and will address whether service dogs or emotional support dogs helped veterans with PTSD. The second part, to be released about six months later, will report whether the kind of dog factored into “health economics savings,” which would be factors like reduced hospital stays and reduced reliance on medication.

The VA has not yet taken a position on the PAWS Act.

“The need is so high,” Diamond said, “and these dogs are saving lives in the face of a veteran suicide crisis.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

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(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

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(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

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Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

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In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

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China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

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Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. (Photo: NASA)


Dr. Randy Lovelace was a Harvard-educated flight surgeon with the U.S. Army who became a pioneer in aeromedicine and aviation physiology — particularly with the issues surrounding high-altitude flight. He was instrumental in developing the first oxygen masks and other adaptive equipment that allowed aviators to survive in low space.

In 1940 Lovelace met Jackie Cochran, a record-holding air racer who petitioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to use women as pilots on the homefront in a variety of non-combat missions. That idea turned into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, better known as “WASPs,” during World War II. These female aviators served in crucial roles — test pilots, ferry pilots and maintenance check pilots — that freed up more male pilots to fight the battles that were raging across the globe. A few years later Cochran, by virtue of her friendship with Chuck Yeager, became the first woman to break the sound barrier. After that, she became the first woman to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier.

So when NASA started fielding candidates for what would eventually become the Mercury 7 astronauts, Lovelace and Cochran started a parallel effort that mirrored NASA’s rigorous testing — doable because Lovelace was a key player in designing the official program for the space agency. Along the way they asked another record-breaking female aviator, Jerrie Cobb, to join the effort. The three of them scrubbed the veteran WASP community — a population of over 700 pilots — and came up with 13 qualified females willing and able to go through their NASA-like testing.

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Jerrie Cobb with Mercury capsule. (Photo: NASA)

Cobb dubbed the group “Fellow Lady Astronaut Trainees” or “FLATs.” The 13 went through a series of stressful evaluations designed to see if they could hold up under the conditions in space. Ice water was injected into their ears to induce vertigo. Painful electric shocks were administered to test reflexes. Weighted stationary bicycles were used to rapidly push candidates to exhaustion. And that was just Phase I of the testing.

All 13 of the women passed Phase I, but because of family and job commitments, only three of them — Jerrie Cobb, Rhea Hurrle, and Wally Funk — were able to travel to Oklahoma City for Phase II. Phase II involved psychological evaluations — including one that had them sit in an isolation tank for an extended period. All three woman passed.

After Jerrie Cobb passed Phase III, which included actual flights in military jet aircraft, the rest of the FLATs were invited to follow suit. But before they could gather at Naval Air Station Pensacola, the designated location, U.S. Navy officials at the base sent a telegram to the candidates that informed them that support for the project had been withdrawn because the request hadn’t come through NASA channels.

That ruling infuriated Cobb, and in 1962 she flew to Washington, D.C., to petition lawmakers to make the FLATs program an official part of NASA. Her efforts led to Rep. Victor Anfuso, R-NY, convening public hearings before a special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. Cobb’s testimony introduced gender discrimination into the Hill’s conversation well before the Civil Right Act of 1964 made it illegal.

But the way forward for the FLATs was plagued by infighting among the principals more than unresponsive congressmen. Jackie Cochran, of all people, sensing she was losing clout among her peers, testified that setting up a special program to help women would hurt NASA. Cochran’s negative view was multiplied by the opinions of a handful of Mercury 7 astronauts, including John Glenn, who said that the absence of women in the program was “a fact of our social order.”

Glenn also pointed out that astronaut candidates were required to be graduates of one of the military’s test pilot schools, something women were not qualified to apply for in 1962, and NASA had already indicated it had no desire to waive the requirement by giving females credit for the massive amount of flight experience they had — in some cases many more flight hours than the Mercury 7 selectees. Although some in congress were sympathetic to the FLATs’ plight, Cobb’s Capitol Hill visit didn’t result in any meaningful support.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963. In response, “Life” magazine published an article criticizing NASA and American decision makers. The article included photographs of all 13 FLATs, which made the entire group of women public for the first time.

NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983, and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. At Collins’ invitation, seven of the surviving FLATs attended her launch.

In 1995, while working on a film adaptation of the FLATs’ story, Hollywood producer James Cross coined the label “Mercury 13” for the FLATs. (Look for that title in a theater near you in the years to come.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

13 hilarious memes for the next time you need to mock an airman

Look, airmen are technically people. That’s why we can’t slap a fence around the Air Force, call it a zoo, and call the day done. Especially since we need a few of them to fly close-air support and whatever else it is that they do. So, the boys in blue tiger stripes are going to keep wandering around, quoting Nietzsche (even if they are finally getting rid of those stripes).


If you are forced to interact with one of them, here are some pics you can drop on the ground and escape while they argue the semantics or parse the meaning of it:
US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(funnyjunk.com)

Remember: They’re more trained for large airbases than small unit tactics.

Keep them inside and they won’t rub their coffee grounds into their helmet like that.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(memeguy.com)

All that fancy radar and signals intercept equipment, and this is what we get.

This does, however, really make me want to get into meteorology.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(tumblr.com)

In her defense, she’s probably well schooled in PowerPoint.

You’re probably gonna have to just carry her out of combat, Sgt. Joe.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(tumblr.com)

Must suck to be forced to use that internet for so much targeting and so little streaming.

Do it for Khaleesi, airmen.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(imgflip.com)

There is a rumor that the Air Force has a shortage of elbow grease.

That poor Marine probably doesn’t even know that the task is never getting done by that junior airman.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(memesboy.com)

Airmen are so prissy about teeth extractions and medical care.

They probably use anesthetic and hand sanitizer, too.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(citationslist.com)

Most airmen don’t embody the “whole airman concept.”

Though, in their defense, they don’t all look like they ate a whole airman.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Aviation Memes)

Shouldn’t the plane get its bombs at home and drop them while they’re out?

Oh crap, now I’m parsing the memes like some sort of over-educated airman.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Air Force AMN/NCO/SNCO)

President calls for Space Force. Air Force subsumes Space Force concept. Airmen check Stargate IDs.

Would be the coolest gate guard duty in the universe, though. Might even see some three-breasted women or something.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Reddit)

To be fair, airmen aren’t the only folks who will fall to their own forms.

All Department of Defense forms are ridiculously horrible.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(quoteswell.com)

 I could use a snack. And a nap.

Crap. Does the Air Force really have snack time? This is backfiring. I want to be an airman now. AIR POWER!

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(RallyPoint)

Seriously, why can Gru never get his slides right?

There’s no way an Air Force version of Gru would struggle with slides, though.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Valhalla Wear)

The Air Force version of Uber Eats is abysmal.

Worldwide delivery, but the deliveries might not be on time, complete, or structurally sound.

Articles

This is what the pilots from ‘Top Gun’ are doing today

The 1980s brought us some fantastic action movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard,” which made movie-goers consider joining the police force.


When Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” landed in cinemas across the nation, it was an instant blockbuster, earning over $350 million worldwide according to box office mojo.

With all the adrenaline-packed scenes the film offers, “Top Gun” audience members of all ages wanted to be the next Maverick.

While it made a massive impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the cool pilots from “Top Gun?”

Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Iceman

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(Source: Paramount)

Soon after Iceman made amends with Maverick, his naval career took a downward turn, and he ended up leaving the military. Like most veterans, he didn’t have a plan about what he wanted to do post service — so he dyed his hair brown and became a Jim Morrison impersonator.

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He played a few music gigs and smoked a lot of drugs. But after the market for music impersonators dried up, Iceman reset his hair blonde and turned to a life of crime.

You may have even seen him on the news after being involved in a major shootout with police in downtown Los Angeles back the mid-90s.

The “Heat” was totally on.

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Since then, Iceman has gone off the grid, but he resurfaces every once in a while.

Jester

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(Source: Paramount)

Jester loved being a Top Gun instructor, but because he lost a dogfight to a student — his peers started to look down at his piloting skills. Jester put in for retirement and left the Navy. After months of being a civilian, Jester missed the action so much, he moved to Mars becoming a bounty hunter.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

While on assignment, Jester lost his arms during a fight on an elevator. The Mars government patched him up and gave him a bionic arm.

Then wouldn’t you know it, a war broke out against some big ass bugs, and he joined the mobile infantry. He flew to a planet named “Klendathu” to eliminate the threat. Unfortunately, Jester met his doom there, and his body was ripped apart.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Jester could have just walked this off.

Slider

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
(Source: Paramount)

After being Iceman’s sidekick for so many years, Slider’s BUD/s package was approved, and he went on to become a Navy SEAL. He didn’t talk too much, but he learned to play a mean round of go-kart golf.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Life after the teams, Slider finished getting his medical degree and went to work for a ghetto hospital in Chicago. He began dating a hot nurse until an upcoming pediatrician stole her away.

Then, he kind of just vanished. Oh, wait! We just received reports that he spotted as a bicycle officer patrolling the Santa Monica Pier.

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No one saw that career change coming.

Maverick

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
(Source: Paramount)

As much crap as he raised as a fighter pilot, Maverick ended up getting recruited by a spy agency named “Mission Impossible Force.” The organization made him change his name from Pete Mitchell to Ethan Hunt — which is far better.

He went on several successful missions and took down some of the world’s most dangerous and well-connected terrorists.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

In recent news, the all-star pilot will be returning for round 2, “Maverick” set to debut this fall.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A walrus just attacked and sunk Russian navy boat

In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Sept. 23, 2019.

The Altai, a tugboat of the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet, sailed to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic carrying researchers from the Russian Geographical Society.

“The polar latitudes are fraught with many dangers,” the research group posted in a recent press update.

One of those dangers is apparently walruses, a monstrously large animal that can weigh up to a few thousand pounds and can be quite ferocious when threatened.


To get ashore from the Altai, the researchers and other expedition participants had to rely on smaller landing craft.

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The Altai sitting offshore as a landing craft appears to move in.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

During one landing, the “group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, while protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat,” the Northern Fleet said.

The navy added that “serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemembers, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”

The Barents Observer reports that a drone was being operated in close proximity to the walruses. It is unclear if this is what triggered the aggression.

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A walrus.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

While the Russian military makes no mention of any equipment losses, the Geographical Society had a bit more to say on what happened.

“Walruses attacked the participating boat,” the research group explained. “The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader. All the landing participants safely reached the shore.”

This wasn’t the Russian navy’s first run-in with walruses.

This past May, photos believed to be from 2006 surfaced online of a large walrus napping on top of a Russian submarine.

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

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