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Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier

Carriers are awesome. Even bad carriers are awesome. They’re floating fortresses with airstrips on the roof. They’re the original man-made islands.


And that’s why, potential adversary or no, China’s single aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is pretty cool. It’s a smaller carrier built on a rusted relic purchased from Ukraine in 1998 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier
(Photo: YouTube/CGTN)

The former Soviet carrier was destined for a glitzy life as a floating casino, but the Chinese company that bought it gave the hull to the People’s Liberation Navy and it was treated for corrosion, given new engines and other major systems, and sent back to sea as the Liaoning, a combatant and training ship.

Now, the Liaoning is China’s only aircraft carrier in service, though another is almost ready for commissioning and more are reportedly under construction. The ship supports up to 24 J-15 fighters, though it typically carries fewer.

Watch China launch planes from its only aircraft carrier
(Photo: YouTube/CGTN)

The Liaoning is a darling of the Chinese propaganda effort, and its J-15 “Flying Shark” fighters are popular as well.

See China’s recent video of their launching J-15s off the Liaoning into the South China Sea below:

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This is what it means to make a ‘Fini Flight’ in the US Air Force

The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.


US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.

Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’

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Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. John Hughel

The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.

Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.

“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Lauren Main

Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.

Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.

Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht

Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.

“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”

Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.

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Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

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A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

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Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

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The VA flubbed private care option after hiring a firm the Pentagon fired

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs chose a contractor to run its Choice Card program who was previously fired for allegedly defrauding the government after working on a similar contract with the Department of Defense.


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(Photo from DoD)

The contractor, TriWest, now takes so long to schedule appointments with private healthcare providers that many veterans could shorten wait times by opting for traditional VA care, whose delays Choice was intended to allow veterans to escape.

Choice Card links vets with private doctors, but VA seemingly tried to sabotage the program, fearing it jeopardizes its budget.

TriWest contracts to administer parts of Tricare, the active military’s healthcare system, since 1996. TriWest paid $10 million in September, 2011, to settle charges that it defrauded the government by negotiating low prices with doctors but not passing the resulting savings on to taxpayers.

“Those who overbill Tricare threaten to undermine the health care provided to our men and women in uniform,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said of the legal settlement at the time.

But the standards seem to be lower for care owed to those who formerly wore the uniform of the U.S. military, because VA gave TriWest a contract in September, 2013, to run its Community Care program, a precursor to Choice Card that allowed veterans to use private doctors in some circumstances.

Inspector general reports said that program was run poorly, pointing the blame both at TriWest and the way VA set up their work. Meanwhile, Congress created the Choice Card program to enable any veteran delayed more than 30 days for VA care, or who didn’t live close to a VA facility, to seek private health care services.

VA managers and leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents most of the department’s employees opposed it, fearing that fewer veterans in the government system would mean smaller budgets and fewer civil service jobs.

When VA leaders claimed budget shortfalls threatened closure of hospitals, they asked Congress to let them re-purpose $3.3 billion originally authorized for the Choice Card program.

When the bill became law anyway, VA gave the Choice Card contract to TriWest and HealthNet, another company that worked on Community Care.

A VA spokesperson said that “in order to enact [Choice] within 90 days, VA held an industry day to try to partner with industry to operate the program. Unfortunately, given the timeline set to roll out the program, VA’s only option was to modify a previously existing national community care contract, which was never intended to handle the scope” of the Choice Card model.

Official data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows that more vets are now waiting months for private care because contractors take so long to schedule appointments.

Consequently, VA bureaucrats and their union will likely get the result they sought: veterans going back into the government healthcare system despite its delays.

Private care doctors aren’t happy with the Choice Card initiative either, because the companies, which also manage payments, have been so slow to pay, causing many private care physicians to refuse veterans, leading to the same result.

A knowledgeable VA source told TheDCNF that after a patient does finally see a private doctor, TriWest takes up to 75 days to get the medical results of that appointment back into the VA system. That makes followup care impossible.

Darin Selnick, an Air Force veteran and former VA official under George W. Bush who now runs Concerned Veterans For America’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, said that “TriWest and HealthNet may not have been the best choices,” but much of the failure is because VA “didn’t want it to work.”

Officials at VA “didn’t like the idea of patients going outside,” because “what does any organization want to do? It wants to get more money, more people, more power, it wants to grow,” Selnick added.

Scheduling delays happen because the system has a middleman, Selnick said. What other health care plan has “a system where you have to call a 1-800 number and they set up an appointment for you” with a provider that they select?,” he asked.

Half of all veterans are on Medicare anyway, so the VA should simply pay a small supplement to Medicare providers, instead of creating multiple administrative layers of VA bureaucrats and contractors in between veterans and healthcare workers, Selnick noted, which would purportedly save billions of tax dollars annually.

Those close to the issue believe “the chief problem with Choice is that we’ve had to rely on VA to implement it, and the department is just not very good at implementing things,” a spokesman for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which designed the Choice Card program, told TheDCNF

The committee never requested a third-party administrator to schedule appointments, the spokesman noted.

Companies involved in the Choice program defend their record. “Overall, TriWest is processing 90% of clean claims from providers within 30 days,” the company explained, adding that it got “exceptional” and “very good” performance ratings for its Tricare work, and saved the military money, but voluntarily entered a settlement on the assumption that more savings were possible.

Hiring people with prior records of failure is a pattern at VA. When hospital directors come under criticism for poor management, VA executives routinely remove them, then reinstate them at another hospital where the poor performance continues.

Only weeks after the Chicago VA fired Deloris Judd from the federal workforce for patient abuse and dishonesty, the Phoenix VA hired her to work on the Choice Card program.

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This new 9mm pistol looks like something out of ‘RoboCop’

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Ars Technica Videos | YouTube


SilencerCo turned heads at this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas with its latest prototype of the Maxim 9, a futuristic-looking 9mm pistol that sort of resembles the gun from the “RoboCop” movies.

“This is the world’s first integrally suppressed 9mm handgun that is hearing safe with all types of 9mm ammunition,” Jason Schauble, a marketing official for the company, said on Monday at range day the Boulder Rifle Pistol Club outside Vegas. “It’s definitely the coolest thing you’ll see this week. I guarantee it.”

Designers indeed looked to futuristic science-fiction movies for ideas, including “RoboCop” and “Judge Dredd,” but ultimately settled on a unique design with a thick, rectangular front end and the operating mechanism in the rear of the weapon, Shauble said.

“I’ve got a 3.5-inch fixed barrel, so it’s still accurate — I can still get the velocity I need,” he said. “But I’ve got as much room up front to suppress the actual noise.”

When asked what makes the design unique, Schauble said, “People have done intergrally-supressed pistols before — the Chinese, the Russians — but they did it with a .32-caliber cartridge, which is not going to kill anything, or it’s a you-can-only-use-this-bullet, right? — I can only use a subsonic, light round, at 20 feet in close range or something like that. So we made it so I can use 124-grain-plus-p-plus jacketed hollow point, which is the loudest 9mm pistol cartridge in this configuration.”

The weapon uses Glock magazines and can accommodate any type of after-market sights, he said. While a previous prototype was unveiled at a product launch event in September, this second version is “much closer to what our final iteration will look like,” he said.

SilencerCo, based in West Valley City in Utah, plans to ship the product later this year, with an expected retail price of between $1,500 and $2,000.

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11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

Here’s a short list of things military buddies would do for each other that civilian friends probably won’t:


1. Check out a rash

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Blades of Glory, Dreamworks

2. Skip the pleasantries and get right to calling ‘bulls-t’

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Terminal Boots, YouTube

3. Tee up a minor issue just to get a rise

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Goodfellas, Warner Bros.

4. Have a buddy’s back, no questions asked

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Casino, Universal Pictures

5. Give a hand loading stuff that explodes

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

6. Cuddle under a woobie to stay warm

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Photo by Paul Avallone

7. Not complain about a buddy’s weight

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Forrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

8. Go above and beyond, like this guy who volunteered to be a POW for his buddies

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Cpl. Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor and Prisoner of war hero. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rubin was credited with saving the lives of 40 prison mates by sneaking out of the camp every night and back in every morning, stealing food and medical supplies from his captors and local farms.

9. Jump on a grenade . . . a real one

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Cpl Kyle Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor. Photo: The White House

… and do it again if required

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Photos: Wikipedia/Department of Defense

Jack H. Lucas jumped on a grenade twice to save his buddies and lived. He was also the youngest man to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

10. Ignore the most agonizing pain

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Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe Photo: US Army

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe pulled six other soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle while drenched in fuel and covered in flames.

11. Follow each other through the gates of hell.

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Benavidez was a close friend of Leroy Wright and felt that he owed his life to him from an earlier incident in which Wright saved him. His attempt to repay the deed by rescuing Wright led to the insane heroics that almost cost him his life, even Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe.

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The US is considering ‘all options’ to stop North Korea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider “all options,” including military strikes.


To be fair, the US has always considered all options.

If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.

Related: Here’s what would happen in a war between North and South Korea

But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.

“There is no plausible military option,” Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. “To remove the North Korean government is general war.”

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North Korea has a large amount of massive fixed guns trained on South Korea. | KCNA

Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there’s simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.

“This is not a case where you’re striking a nuclear program in its early stages,” said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. “The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago.”

Last month, North Korea tested a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that could be launched off a tank-like truck in a matter of minutes. And though the country’s nuclear arsenal is still in its early phases, the country reportedly commands 100 missile launchers with several missiles for each.

Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.

While North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.

But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.

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KM-101 105mm artillery firing exercise of Republic of Korea Army 6th Division (ROK photo)

“It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster,” Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. “But that’s nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea’s ability to inflict damage has gone way up.”

As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US’s patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.

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Stratfor

However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.

Related: How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

“The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations,” Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

Toner suggested that comparing the US’s transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea’s 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of “apples to oranges.”

North Korea’s position is “not crazy,” according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia did.

“The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they’re there for an exercise, but you can’t take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion,” said Lewis.

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Marines wait for the command to advance after rushing out of a Republic of Korea Marine amphibious assault vehicle March 31, 2014, during Ssang Yong 2014 at Dokseok-ri beach in Pohang, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cedric R. Haller II

Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.

Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.

Related: New study says North Korea uses war games as an excuse to be difficult

If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They’re not going to stop cause they get bored,” Lewis said.

The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to “maximize pain” on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.

Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.

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Air Force officials present united front to counter F-35 critics

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Trail aircraft in a section of F-35s banks away while firing an anti-IR missile flare. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In spite of recent setbacks that grounded 15 F-35s right after the Air Force declared them ready to go to war, service officials at the Air Force Association’s annual gathering outside of Washington DC presented a measured if not upbeat assessment of the program’s progress and how the airplane will improve air dominance.

“I will tell you, in my opinion, that over time, although there are sometimes bumps in the road and you really don’t always get everything the way you want to to being with, as we develop and field this airplane and we get it into the hands of our airmen and allow them to do with it what they’re capable of doing, I firmly believe this airplane will continue to get better and better and better,” Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, said during his opening remarks. “It’s a great airplane.”

Carlisle was followed by Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program head, who contextualized the state of the F-35 in terms of the problems engineers and test team members have solved.

“I would tell you that if you build a test program and you don’t find anything wrong then you didn’t do a good enough job,” Bogdan said. “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day we encounter things wrong with this airplane. What I like to tell people is now is the time to find those things and fix them.”

Bogdan listed the most recent problem — one involving faulty insulation around the engines — that grounded 15 airplanes as a “perfect example.”

“If this problem was found three or four years from now we have hundreds of airplanes out there,” Bogdan said. “The mark of a good program isn’t that you have no problems. The mark of a good program is you find things early, you fix them, you make the airplane better, you make the weapons system better, and you move on.

“I think we have a pretty good track record of doing that over the last few years,” he continued. “We don’t talk about engine fires anymore. We don’t talk about a hook on the ‘C’ model that doesn’t catch a cable. We don’t talk about a helmet that has multiple problems with it — in fact, talk to the aviators about how much they like this helmet. We don’t talk about landing gear problems. All of those things are behind us.”

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(L-R) Carlisle, Bogdan, Pleus, and Lyons at AFA Convention briefing on state of the F-35 program. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

“I’m hopeful that as we grow the fleet that we all take the time to form opinions on this airplane from experts,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, Director of the Pentagon’s F-35 Integration Office, said.  “And the only experts in the F-35 business are those that fix, maintain, and fly the F-35 on a day-to-day basis.”

Scott claimed that pilots flying the F-35 out of Luke AFB and Eglin AFB, when polled about what airplane they’d want to be in if faced with an enemy pilot of equal ability today, unanimously chose the F-35 over the F-15C, F-15E, F-16, or A-10 in a “beyond visual range” environment and picked the F-35 by a factor of 80 percent over those other airplanes in a dogfight.

Col. David Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, explained that the Air Force’s Initial Operational Capability, or “IOC,” ruling was organized into four categories:  availability, deployability, access to required support equipment, and the readiness of trained aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel.

“Our achievement of each IOC milestone gave us increased confidence,” Lyons said. “The outcome speaks for itself. The jet has proved to be both survivable and lethal while allowing the technological growth required to become a viable weapons system for decades to come.”

Lyons touted that the 7-aircraft “graduation” detachment based out of Mountain Home AFB last year yielded a 97.5 percent hit rate for dropped bombs, a 92.3 percent mission capable rate, and 100 percent sortie completion rate — all of which exceed the standards set by the legacy aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace. He also stated there were zero F-35 losses from “Red Air,” the term used for simulated enemy aircraft in a training scenario.

Lyons characterized his overall impressions of the jet as “overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s a pilot’s airplane and the technology will prove to be game-changing,” he said. “I think our adversaries will worry, and I think they have every reason to feel that way.”

The sanguine outlook of the high-ranking panel at the Air Force Association Convention was mitigated by the recent news that 57 jets — 15 in operational use and 42 on the production line — had substandard tubing that caused insulation to migrate into fuel tanks. The discovery resulted in the fleet airplanes being grounded while technicians perform an intrusive procedure to remove the insulation by drilling through the wing to access the fuel tanks. Bogdan said he expects the affected jets to be back in service sometime in December. He also said the grounding action does not affect the ‘B’ and ‘C’ models of the F-35.

 

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ISIS is using water as a weapon

Islamic State (IS) militants have closed some dam gates on the Euphrates River near Ramadi in western Iraq, reducing the vital flow of water to government-held areas while giving the militants greater freedom to attack government forces downstream.


The move on June 3 threatens the drinking water, irrigation water, and water-treatment plants for thousands of residents and troops in areas held by the Iraqi government.

And it also poses a threat to security forces fighting to recapture Ramadi.

If water levels drop significantly, said Anbar Province councilman Taha Abdul-Ghani, the insurgents could cross the Euphrates on foot and attack troops deployed along the river and stationed at nearby Habaniya military base.

The base has been used as a staging ground for Iraqi troops and allied Shi’ite militias in the fight to retake Ramadi.

It is not the first time the IS group has used water as a weapon. Earlier this year, it reduced the flow through a lock outside the town of Fallujah, also in Anbar Province, though it soon reopened the lock after criticism from residents.

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ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

Last summer, IS took control of the Mosul dam — the largest in Iraq — and threatened to flood Baghdad and other cities downstream. But Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, later recaptured the facility.

Outside Ramadi, thousands of people in the government-held towns of Khalidiya and Habaniya are already suffering from shortages of drinking water because purification plants along the Euphrates have all but shut down due to low water levels caused by the summer heat.

The residents of the towns get only two hours a day of water through their pipes, Abdul-Ghani said.

“With the summer heat and lack of water, the lives of these people are in danger and some are thinking of leaving their homes,” he said.

Abu Ahmad, who owns a vegetable farm near Khalidiya, said he could lose all his crops because of lack of irrigation water. Now, the water is lower than the level of his water-pumping machines.

“I used to irrigate my crops every three days. If the situation continues like this, my vegetables will die,” said Abu Ahmad, using a nickname because of fears for his life.

The United Nations said on June 3 it was looking into reports that IS had reduced the flow of water through the Al-Warar dam.

“The use of water as a tool of war is to be condemned in no uncertain terms,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general. “These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”

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Photo Credit: Vice News/screenshot

The move is also worrying for an array of troops fighting IS.

The Euphrates has acted as a barrier between the militants, who control its northern bank, and pro-government forces who are trying to advance toward Ramadi on the other side.

A spokesman for the governor of Anbar Province said security forces would now have to redeploy along the river to prevent the insurgents from infiltrating.

“Previously they had to monitor only the bridges and certain areas, but now all of the river will be crossable,” Hikmat Suleiman said.

The government has found a temporary countermeasure. The partial closure of the Ramadi dam has forced more water into a tributary running south to Habbaniya lake, officials said.

Falih al-Issawi, a senior provincial security official, said the government had opened another dam to channel water from Habbaniya lake back into the Euphrates and prevent shortages in the southern provinces.

But he said this was only a temporary measure that would not be effective for more than three days.

“The government must act immediately otherwise dire consequences and an environmental catastrophe will be inevitable,” he said.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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6 things troops always buy after deployment

When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.


Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”

But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.

1. A new car or motorcycle

 

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The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.

That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.

2. Post-deployment booze

 

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Photo Credit: Streetwear Deals

I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.

But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.

3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)

When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.

That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.

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Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.

4. Engagement rings

Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…

5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect

 

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Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.

6. Tattoos

There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.

Just make sure you get it spell-checked.

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What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.

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Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.


What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.

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Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.

“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.

Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:

“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”

Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.

Check out this Marine Corps Recruiting video to hear from Corps’ finest on who they think makes tougher Marines.

YouTube, Marine Corps Recruiting

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This Journalist Nails The Reason Why Young Men Want To Go To War

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Photo: Spc. Joshua Leonard/US Army


Going to war is not about the ideologies of the left or the right, it’s about becoming a man.

“I’m a journalist,” said Sebastian Junger – Oscar-nominated documentarian and best-selling author – in an interview with War is Boring. “I don’t put any political agenda into my work. I think the right wing tends to idolize soldiers – you can’t talk about them critically in any way. The left wing went from vilifying them in Vietnam to seeing them as victims of a military-industrial complex.”

Also read: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded

For young men, however, war is much simpler than a political agenda. Modern society doesn’t describe what manhood is and much less, what it requires. Joining the military fills that void by finding a peer group and purpose to their lives, according to War is Boring.

This generation has a track record for delaying the rituals of adulthood. They’re taking longer to finish school, achieve financial independence, marry and have children, compared with their parent’s generation, according to a New York Times article about millennials. Perhaps it’s a financial decision as the article explains, after all, we did just go through the great recession, or it’s young men devising their own rites of passage.

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Photo: Wikimedia

Junger tells War is Boring that tribal societies have clear rituals and expectations of adulthood:

There’s a lot of initiation rites for young men around the world that involve torturing young men,” he explains. “So that young man can then demonstrate that he’s willing to undergo an enormous amount of pain in order to achieve adult status.

They could actually live untested lives, if left to their own devices,” Junger says. But “they don’t want 30-year-old males wondering about their manhood.”

But initiation rites help define the line between childhood and the adult world, and they define what manhood is. “We don’t have anything like that,” Junger says. “But I think it’s wired in us. It’s certainly wired into our language when we talk about, ‘C’mon, be a man about it,’ or ‘Man up.'”

The way Junger sees it, young men choose to fight, “Okay, if I go to war, surely I’ll come back a man.” When he asked why they joined, the common response was the terrorist attacks on 9/11, military family tradition, and the thought of becoming a man. Check out the full article on War is Boring.

Sebastian Junger is famous for his award-winning chronicle of the war in Afghanistan in the documentary films Restrepo

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 (2010), Korengal 
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(2014), and his book War WAR
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 (2010). Here’s the official trailer for Korengal:

NOW: Medal Of Honor Hero Kyle Carpenter Just Gave An Inspiring Speech That Everyone Should Read

AND: SERE School Is About More Than Just Being Tortured

H/T: War is Boring

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5 reasons why Ronald Reagan was a great commander-in-chief

The passing of Nancy Reagan gives occasion to think back on the Reagan years and their impact on the warfighting capability of the American military. Here are five things that the Reagan administration gave to the troops that endure today:


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The Reagan presidency began in a dramatic manner on January 20, 1981. As Reagan was giving his inaugural address, 52 U.S. hostages, held by Iran for 444 days, were set free. (National Archives photo)

1. Reagan’s defense spending was the hallmark of his presidency

Reagan believed the Cold War policies of Containment and Détente were both outmoded. He opted for a new way forward with a strategy determined by his National Security Council. This theory was one of a long-term strategic offense and was neither reactive or proactive. The strategy was designed to pressure the Soviets through a massive military buildup, which raised defense spending from $214 billion in 1982 to $258 billion in 1983. The Soviet Union was compelled to raise its defense spending from 22 percent to 27 percent of GDP. The total number of uniformed personnel didn’t change much, but the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles, F-117 Stealth Fighters, Apache Helicopters, and M-1 Tanks that rolled over Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army in 1991 did so because Ronald Reagan helped put them there.

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A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Coleman)

While most historians (and former Soviet officials) agree the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, Reagan’s defense policies, including providing $1 billion worth of support to Afghan Mujahideen, certainly sped up the process.

2. Reagan began the tradition of presidents saluting U.S. troops

President Obama caught some flak from the U.S. right wing a while back when he saluted U.S. Marines with a Starbucks cup in his hand. Obviously, while rendering a salute holding something in the right hand is a no-go (which is why you’d be hard pressed to find military members in uniform holding briefcases in their right hand on base), the tradition of the President saluting military personnel is just that: tradition.

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President Reagan salutes a military cadet (wikimedia commons)

The fact is, military members do not salute while in civilian clothes. The tradition started with President Reagan in 1981 and even then, it was a curious thing. Reagan had served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and likely knew salutes weren’t rendered out of uniform, it also means he knew it was a courtesy, and allowed the airmen and Marines who transported him to drop their salute after he returned it. Plus, the Commander-In-Chief can do what he wants. RHIP.

3. He raised the military’s pay and gave them better gear for the fight

General Edward Meyer, Army chief of staff under President Reagan, warned him that the Army was a “hollow force,” beaten around by the Vietnam War. When Reagan took over, Meyer’s assessment of the Army for the new President found one full of racial conflict, drug and alcohol problems, and full of recruits who were barely qualified to join. He also opened large training centers for the military, such as the Army’s National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert. Meyer to the President the military needed to be told by the top person that they were honored and appreciated, and President Reagan took the time do just that.

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(White House photo)

Reagan gave the military a much-needed pay raise. He modernized attack aircraft, like the F-14 Tomcat and F-15 Strike Eagle. The Navy grew from 479 combat ships to 525. The military soon rolled out the B-1 Bomber, Trident Attack Submarines, and Peacekeeper Missiles. M-1 Tanks replaced aging M-60 tanks used in Vietnam. Jeeps gave way to Humvees, and money flooded into training centers. He also made sure the right men were in them. It was a military an American would be proud to join.

“Regardless of the political consequences, Reagan bought us what we needed,” Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to The Baltimore Sun. “You can see it today.”

4. Reagan improved the morale of the force by shaking off the spectre of Vietnam

The 40th President believed the United States needed a win. Like a college football team in week one, he scheduled an easy start to what could have been a tough season. With the Cold War in full swing, the Gipper gave the troops the warmup they would have needed to fight the Russians, consequences be damned.

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82nd Airborne artillery personnel load and fire M102 105 mm howitzers during Operation Urgent Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. M.J. Creen)

After ordering 7,000 U.S. troops to storm the beaches of the tiny Caribbean island, President Reagan declared “Our days of weakness are over!” in a speech to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “Our military forces are back on their feet and standing tall.” After the United Nations condemned the invasion, the President replied: “It didn’t upset my breakfast at all.”

5. Reagan’s ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ routine kept the peace with the Soviets

During his first term, he famously called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire,” a phrase which worried critics of the U.S. military buildup at the time and earned him the dreaded “warmonger” label. Worried that his hard stance hurt his image, Nancy encouraged the president to have a direct relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet General Secretary. President Reagan reconsidered his strategy.

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Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty at the White House in 1987 (National Archives photo)

In his 2004 book Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan, senior presidential adviser Michael Deaver wrote that Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko once asked her, “Does your husband believe in peace or war?” Nancy told the Russian minister Reagan wanted peace and that she would remind him of that every night.

She also said that she would whisper it in Gromyko’s ear as well.

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