When thousands of Russian troops wheeled and maneuvered through the steppes of southern Siberia two years ago, as part of massive military exercises known as Tsentr, Western experts spotted something unusual.
Amid Defense Ministry orders for tank brigades, paratrooper battalions, motorized rifle divisions, and railroad cars carrying howitzers, there were orders for the federal fisheries agency.
“And I wondered, ‘What the hell is the fisheries ministry doing?'” recalls Johan Norberg, senior military analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency. The eventual conclusion, he says, was that the Russian fisheries fleet was seen by military planners as an intelligence asset, playing a small role in national defense.
It’s an example offering a small window into not only how Russian commanders approach large-scale military games. It’s also the kind of insight that Western analysts hope to gain beginning next week when one of the largest exercises Moscow has conducted on its western borders since the Cold War get under way: a real-world, real-time glimpse at what Russia’s military is truly capable of, after years of institutional reforms.
The Zapad drills, taking place in Belarus and the regions east of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are formally kicking off on Sept. 14. They’re the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member countries since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
For that and many other reasons, they are giving heartburn to NATO allies from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with some observers predicting that the number of participating personnel could exceed 100,000, along with tanks, artillery units, aircraft, and other equipment.
Though few, if any, Western planners anticipate any outbreak of hostilities with Russia, NATO states have taken steps to reassure their populaces and to show they are taking the Russians seriously. US Air Force fighter jets are now patrolling Baltic airspace; Poland is closing its airspace near Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad; and four NATO battle groups, featuring 4,500 troops, are on alert in the Baltics and Poland.
That said, as much as anything, the Zapad exercises serve as a midterm exam for Russian armed forces and military planners, a measure of reforms made over the past decade.
“The exercise is actually a very good opportunity for us to… get a better sense of what the Russian military is actually capable of: how it can handle logistics, move different units, or, in an operation, exercise command and control over combined armed formations in the Baltic theater, which is the one we’re principally concerned with, right?” says Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA Corporation and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington.
“This one is a lot more interesting to us because we don’t plan on fighting Russia in Central Asia,” Kofman says.
Preparations have been ongoing for weeks, with large numbers of railroad cars shipping heavy weaponry and vehicles into Belarus and civilians mobilized at some large state-owned enterprises in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.
“As we’ve seen before, Russians train exactly as they intend to fight,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for policy at the Estonian Defense Ministry, said during a July event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. “Thus, Zapad will give ample information on their military development and certainly on their political thinking, as it is right now.”
In 2008, when Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor Georgia, its armed forces easily overcame Georgia’s defenses and some of its US-trained personnel, but the five-day war showcased significant weaknesses. For example, some Russian officers were reportedly unable to communicate with others over existing radio frequencies and were forced to use regular mobile phones. Russian surveillance drones performed poorly.
Other reforms already under way at the time included a shift from the Soviet military structure, organized around divisions, to a smaller brigade structure and the increased use of contract, rather than conscripted, soldiers.
Reforms also included a substantial increase in defense budgets, something made possible by high world oil prices that stuffed Russia’s coffers. A 10-year plan to upgrade weaponry and other equipment originally called for Russia to spend $650 billion between 2011 and 2020, according to NATO figures, though Western sanctions, plummeting oil prices, and the economic downturn in 2015-16 are believed to have slowed some purchases.
“They’ve had now, say, eight or nine years with plenty of money and the willingness to train, and they have a new organization that they want to test,” Norberg says.
While the Defense Ministry conducts a cycle of exercises roughly every year, alternating among four of the country’s primary military districts, Western analysts got a surprise lesson in early 2014 when Russian special forces helped lead a stealth invasion of Crimea and paved the way for the Black Sea region’s illegal annexation by Moscow in March.
That, plus the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the following months, offered a real-world laboratory for testing new tactics and equipment for Russian forces, including new drones, some manufactured with help from Israeli firms.
The Crimea invasion was preceded by the months of civil unrest in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, which culminated in deadly violence and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
For many Kremlin and defense thinkers, that was just the latest in a series of popular uprisings, fomented by Western governments, that toppled regimes and governments stretching back to Georgia in 2003 and lasting through the Arab Spring beginning in 2010.
The scenario that Russian and Belarusian commanders have announced ahead of Zapad 2017 hints at that thinking: The theoretical adversary is one seeking to undermine the government in Minsk and set up a separatist government in western Belarus.
Inside Russia, the thinking that NATO and Western governments used the popular uprisings as a strategy led to the reorganization of internal security forces, such as riot police and Interior Ministry special troops into a specialized National Guard under the command of President Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard. Some parts of that force, whose overall numbers are estimated at 180,000, are expected to participate in the Zapad exercises.
That, Kofman says, should yield insight into “how Russia will mobilize and deploy internal security forces to suppress protest and instability…basically how the regime will protect itself and defend itself against popular unrest.”
Putin announced an “unstoppable” nuclear-powered “global cruise missile” that has “practically unlimited” range, then showed an animation of the device bobbing and weaving around the globe. He also played a computer animation of a high-speed, nuke-armed submarine drone blowing up ships and coastal targets.
“Russia remained and remains the largest nuclear power. Do not forget, no one really wanted to talk to us. Nobody listened to us,” Putin told a crowd in Moscow, according to a translation by Sputnik, a Russian-government-controlled news agency. “Listen now.”
David Wright, a physicist and missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Business Insider that the idea of an “unstoppable” cruise missile going around the world without being detected is “fiction,” since it’d heat up to an extreme degree. (CNN also reported that all tests of the cruise missile ended in crashes.)
But he said that at least one device Putin showed off likely does exist.
“We know they’re developing some new systems with a longer range and a larger payload,” Wright said.
Putin showed a video of the Satan 2 during his speech. In it, footage shows an intercontinental ballistic missile launching out of a silo, followed by an animation of it rocketing toward space. The video-game-like graphic follows the ICBM as it sails over a faux Earth in a high arc and opens its nosecone to reveal five nuclear warheads.
Putin claimed this 119-foot-tall missile is “invincible” to missile defense systems.
What makes ICBMs so threatening
Intercontinental ballistic missiles are similar to rockets that shoot satellites and people into orbit, but ICBMs carry warheads and hit targets on Earth.
The missiles travel in a wide arc over Earth, enabling them to strike halfway around the world within an hour. (North Korea recently launched its new ICBM in a high, compact arc to avoid rocketing it over US allies.)
Satan 2, which Putin claimed is already deployed in some missile silos, is a replacement for a 1970s-era Satan ICBM. The new version is slated to reach full service in 50 silos around 2020, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
According to the Center’s Missile Defense Project, the Satan 2 “is reported by Russian media as being able to carry 10 large warheads, 16 smaller ones, a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or up to 24 YU-74 hypersonic boost-glide vehicles.”
That means one Satan 2 ICBM could pack as much as eight megatons of TNT-equivalent explosive power. That’s more than 400 times as strong as either bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945 — both of which, combined, led to roughly 150,000 casualties.
The technology used to deliver multiple warheads to different targets is called a “multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle,” or MIRV. Such devices deploy their warheads after reaching speeds that can exceed 15,000 miles per hour.
Depending on where the warhead is deployed in space and how it maneuvers, each one can strike targets hundreds of miles apart.
Why Putin says the Satan 2 is ‘invincible’
A recently demonstrated technology made to neutralize a nuclear warhead is a “kinetic kill vehicle:” essentially a large, high-tech bullet launched via missile. The bullets can target a warhead, slam into it mid-flight, and obliterate the weapon.
“But there are a number of different ways to penetrate defenses” like a kill vehicle, Wright said, which may explain Putin’s “invincible” claim.
Satan 2 has advanced guidance systems and probably some countermeasures designed to trick anti-missile systems. This might include “a couple dozen very lightweight decoys made to look like the warhead,” Wright said, which could result in a kill vehicle targeting the wrong object.
Wright has also studied other methods to sneak past US defenses, including warhead cooling systems that might confuse heat-seeking anti-missile systems, and “disguising a real warhead to make it look different.”
But simply deploying large numbers of warheads can be enough: Kill vehicles may not work 50% of the time, based on prior testing, and they’re a technology that’s been in development for decades.
Yet Satan 2 is not exactly unique.
What the US has that compares
The US, in 2005, retired the “Peacekeeper” missile, which was its biggest “MIRV-capable” weapon (meaning it could deploy multiple warheads to different locations).
One Peacekeeper missile could shed up to 10 thermonuclear warheads, each of which had a 50% chance of striking within a roughly football-field-size area.
But the US has other MIRV-capable nuclear weapons in its arsenal today.
One is the Trident II ballistic missile, which gets launched from a submarine and can carry up to a dozen nuclear warheads. Another option is the Minuteman III ICBM, which is silo-launched and can carry three warheads.
Arms-control treaties have since reduced the numbers of warheads in these weapons — Trident IIs carry up to five, Minuteman IIIs just one — and retired the Peacekeeper.
Today, there are still about 15,000 nuclear weapons deployed, in storage, or awaiting dismantlement, with more than 90% held by the US and Russia.
Cold War 2.0?
Wright said Putin’s recent statements and the similarly heated comments and policy made by President Donald Trump echo rhetoric that fueled nuclear arms build-up during the Cold War era.
“What’s discouraging is that, at the end of the Cold War, everyone was trying to de-MIRV” — or reduce the numbers of warheads per missile — he said.
Removing warheads helped calm US-Russia tensions and reduce the risk of preemptive nuclear strikes, either intentional or accidental, Wright said. Russia’s move to deploy new weapons with multiple warheads, then, is risky and escalatory.
“One of the reasons you might want to MIRV is if you’re facing ballistic missile defenses, and Putin talked about that,” Wright said, noting that the US has helped build up European anti-missile defenses in recent years. “The clear response is to upgrade your offensive capabilities.”
He added that Russia’s move also shouldn’t be surprising in the context of history: After George W. Bush withdrew the US from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, a Russian general told the New York Times the move “will alter the nature of the international strategic balance in freeing the hands of a series of countries to restart an arms buildup.”
The charged statements of President Trump, who has called for a new arms race, have done little to reverse that course.
In fact, the Trump Administration plans to expand an Obama-era nuclear weapons modernization program. Over 30 years, the effort could cost US taxpayers more than $1.7 trillion and introduce smaller “tactical” nuclear weapons that experts fear might make the use of nukes common.
The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.
The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.
Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.
On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.
Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.
Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.
The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.
His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.
Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944. (Photo: National Archives)
The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.
Troy, New York — In the earliest days of 1945, the infantrymen of the 42nd Infantry Division, now a part of the New York Army National Guard, spent their first days in desperate combat against German tanks and paratroopers during Hitler’s final offensive in Western Europe.
Operation Nordwind, sometimes called “the other Battle of the Bulge” kicked off on New Year’s Eve 1944 in the Alsace region of France. The American and French armies fought desperately to halt the attack and hold onto the city of Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace.
Three regiments of 42nd Infantry Division soldiers, who had been hurried to France without the rest of their divisional support units, had arrived in Strasbourg, France just before Christmas 1944. They expected to spend time in a quiet sector to learn the ropes of combat.
They could not have been more wrong.
The 42nd Infantry Division had been made up of National Guard troops during World War I and nicknamed “the Rainbow Division” because it contained elements from 26 states.
In World War II the division was reactivated but filled with draftee soldiers. With a desperate need for infantry troops in Europe, the soldiers of the 222nd, 232nd, and 242nd Infantry Regiments had been pulled out of training in the United States and shipped to southern France.
The three regiments were named Task Force Linden, because they were commanded by the division’s deputy commander Brig. Gen. Henning Linden. They were committed to battle without the artillery, armor, engineers and logistics support the rest of the division would normally provide.
The attack came as a shock to the newly arrived infantrymen, explained Capt. William Corson in a letter to a 42nd Division reunion gathering in 1995. Corson commanded Company A in the 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry.
“The green, inexperienced troops would occupy a small town named Hatten since the Germans had nothing more than small patrols in the area. At least that was the information given at a briefing, but someone forgot to tell the enemy,” he wrote.
German paratroops and panzer forces with tanks and self-propelled guns crossed the Rhine River 12 miles north of Strasbourg and clashed with the thinly stretched Rainbow Division infantry at Gambsheim on January 5.
For the next three weeks, the three regiments defended, retreated, counterattacked and finally stopped the Germans.
The first week of was a frenzied effort to halt the German advance, with companies and battalions moved around the front like firefighters plugging gaps, Corson said. The fighting was so desperate that the 42nd Division even threw individual rifle companies into the fight whenever they became available.
“Officers knew little more than the GI,” Corson said. “One morning my company moved to a barren, frozen hillside with orders to dig defensive positions covering an area about three times larger than we were capable of adequately defending. After four hours of chipping away at the frozen ground, we were told that this position would not be defended, so we moved to another frozen spot about ten miles away and started digging again.”
At Gambsheim the odds were too great for the American infantry. The majority of its defenders from the 232nd Infantry Regiment were captured or killed.
In a failed January 5-7 counterattack at Gambsheim, units from all three regiments were combined in a patchwork force that was ultimately repulsed.
Dan Bearse, a rifleman with the 242nd Infantry in the counterattack, recounted the events in an oral history.
“They had tanks and heavy artillery, endless infantry troops,” Bearse recalled. “We were outnumbered two or three to one. So we were quickly repulsed. Lost lots of people, killed, wounded and captured. And we were thrown back immediately,” he said of the January 6 battle. “We were badly mauled and it was very demoralizing. That was our baptism of fire. And it was a loser.”
At Hatten, on January 10, 1945, the 242nd Infantry Regiment and a battalion from the 79th Division tried to stop the German tanks and paratroopers again. The defenders were overrun.
Capt. Corson was wounded and captured with dozens of his Soldiers.
But one soldier from the 242nd Infantry, Master Sgt. Vito Bertoldo decided to stay. Bertoldo, who was attached from Corson’s Company A to the battalion headquarters, volunteered to hold off the Germans while other soldiers retreated.
Bertoldo drove back repeated German attacks for 48 hours. He was exposed to enemy machine gun, small arms and even tank fire.
US Army soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division’s Task Force Linden prepare a defensive position at their log and dirt bunker near Kauffenheim, France, January 8, 1945.
Moving among buildings in Hatten to fire his machine gun, at one point Bertoldo strapped it to a table for stability. He fired on approaching German tanks and panzer grenadiers, repeatedly defeating the German attacks and killing 40 of the enemy. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“On the close approach of enemy soldiers, he left the protection of the building he defended and set up his gun in the street,” his Medal of Honor citation states, “There to remain for almost 12 hours driving back attacks while in full view of his adversaries and completely exposed to 88-millimeter, machine gun and small arms fire.”
“All I did was try to protect some other American soldiers from being killed,” Bertoldo would tell newspapers back home after the war. “At no time did I have in mind that I was trying to win something.”
The 1st Battalion, 242nd Infantry paid a heavy price for its defense of Hatten. At the beginning of the battle there were 33 officers and 748 enlisted men in the battalion. Three days later there were 11 officers and 253 enlisted men reporting for duty.
The Germans launched their final assault just seven miles from the fight at Hatten on January 24, looking to cut American supply lines back to Strasbourg in the town of Haguenau.
They attacked straight into the 42nd Division.
Troops of the 222nd Infantry were dug in inside the nearby Ohlugen Forest, with thick foliage and dense fog concealing both American and German positions.
The regiment had two battalions in the defense, covering a frontage of 7,500 yards, three times the normal frontage for a regiment in defense, according to the “42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division Combat History of WWII.”
Facing the Americans were elements of a German tank division, a paratroop division and an infantry division.
During the fighting, 1st Lt. Carlyle Woelfer, commanding Company K in the 3rd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, captured a German officer with maps detailing the German attack. The officer and another prisoner were put on an M8 Greyhound armored car for transport to the rear. But the German officer signaled for other Germans to come to their aid.
Three Germans moved on the vehicle, killing one American Soldier, but were then killed in turn by Woelfer.
The back and forth fighting continued through the rest of the night as the 222nd fought to contain the German breakthrough towards Haguenau. The regiment earned a Presidential Unit Citation for its actions.
The 232nd Regiment was brought up from reserve to help in the defense. The defense had held as reinforcements from the divisions which had been fighting in the Battle of the Bulge arrived to push the Germans back.
By mid-February 1945 the rest of the 42nd Infantry Division arrived in France and the infantry regiments were rebuilt. The division then went on the attack against German units that had been severely ground down by the Nordwind attack.
For the Rainbow Division, their attack would lead into Germany and capture the cities of Wurzburg, Schweinfurt, Furth, Nuremberg, Dachau and Munich before the war ended in May of 1945.
The expedition crew aboard the late Paul G. Allen’s research vessel (R/V) Petrel discovered wreckage from USS Wasp (CV 7), which was sunk in 1942.
Wasp, found Jan. 14, 2019, was sunk Sept. 15, 1942, by four Japanese torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19 while escorting transports carrying the Seventh Marine Regiment to Guadalcanal as reinforcements. Of the 2,162 on board, 176 were killed as a result of the attack. The sunken aircraft carrier was found in the Coral Sea, 4,200 meters (nearly 14,000 feet) below the surface.
“Paul Allen’s passion for U.S. history lives on through these missions. He was dedicated to honoring the brave men who fought for our country,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Vulcan Inc. “Paired with the discovery of USS Hornet announced in February, we’re excited to start out the year with these momentous discoveries.”
In 1941, Wasp was assigned to ferry vital army planes to Iceland, supplementing for a lack of British aircraft to cover American landings. The P-40 planes that Wasp carried provided the defensive fighter cover necessary to watch over the American forces. Wasp also aided two very important missions to Malta, a location being hit daily by German and Italian planes. After Wasp’s first mission to Malta, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that the nation would be “pounded to bits,” asked President Roosevelt to allow Wasp to have “another good sting.” Aside from providing vital enforcements in WWII, Wasp was the first ship to launch U.S. Army planes from a U.S. Navy carrier, paving the way for future collaboration between the armed forces.
Deep sea explorers discover WWII aircraft carrier USS Wasp
“Wasp represented the U.S. Navy at the lowest point after the start of WWII. Her pilots and her aircrew, with their courage and sacrifice, were the ones that held the line against the Japanese when the Japanese had superior fighter aircraft, superior torpedo planes and better torpedoes,” said Rear Adm. (Ret.) Samuel Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “The first year of the war, it was touch and go. Those who served at that time deserve the gratitude of our nation for holding the Japanese back.”
In its final battle, Wasp was hit in arguably the most effective spread of torpedoes in history by a Japanese submarine I-19, which fired six torpedoes. USS Hornet, USS North Carolina and USS O’Brien were all hit and either crippled or sunk as well.
Although the torpedoes that hit Wasp caused a massive inferno on the ship, men showed reluctance to leave until all remaining crewmates were safe. Only when satisfied that the crew had been evacuated did Capt. Forrest P. Sherman abandon the ship. He later became the youngest Chief of Naval Operations to ever serve in the position. Another survivor, Lt. David McCampbell went on from being Wasp’s signal operator to becoming the number one navy ace pilot flying the hellcat fighter.
USS Wasp burning after receiving three torpedo hits from the Japanese submarine I-19.
(US Navy photo)
“The crew of the WWII Wasp exhibited the bravery, toughness and resolve that our crew today strives to emulate. We are humbled by the sacrifice of those Wasp sailors, especially those who paid for our freedom with their lives,” said Capt. Colby Howard, commanding officer of USS Wasp (LHD 1). “We hope this discovery gives remaining survivors and their families some degree of closure. I would like to sincerely thank the entire R/V Petrel crew, whose commitment and perseverance led to the discovery.”
The crew of R/V Petrel has also found the wreckage of USS Hornet, USS Juneau, USS Ward, USS Lexington, USS Helena and perhaps most famously, the USS Indianapolis over the past few years. PBS aired Jan. 8, 2019, a new documentary titled, “The USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter,” which highlights the 2017 shipwreck discovery by the crew of the R/V Petrel of what remains the US Navy’s single greatest loss at sea.
Additional past Allen-led expeditions have resulted in the discovery of USS Astoria, the Japanese battleship Musashi and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere. His team was responsible for retrieving the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service.
Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.
The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.
“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.
On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.
The United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan and stop listening to “stooges” in Kabul, the Taliban warned in an open letter to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a regional strategy that could include nearly 4,000 additional US troops, part of a NATO-led coalition, that have been requested by commanders in the country.
That plan has faced skepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the English-language letter released to media and addressed to Trump.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a US-led military operation in 2001.
In the lengthy statement, the Taliban criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who are providing Washington with overly optimistic “rosy pictures” of the situation in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the statement said, while arguing that the only thing preventing the insurgents from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The statement also took aim at generals, who the Taliban said “are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled” soldiers.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the letter said. “A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces.
Powerful voices in the US government, including Republican Senator John McCain, have also called for an “enduring” US military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban letter concludes by saying the conflict could be resolved by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.
“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.
Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”
U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.
Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.
Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.
“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.
Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.
Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.
“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.
While most of the things COVID-19 has brought us have been horrible, contagious, disappointing, frustrating, no good and almost overwhelmingly sad (just me? No?), one of the many silver linings has been the accessibility of entertainment. Movies like Trolls released straight to television, Ryan Seacrest hosted a family Disney sing-a-long (can you tell I have young children at home?) and museums and theaters all over the world are opening their doors for virtual shows, tours and the like.
And now (well, Sunday, April 19), you can watch one of our favorite Bond movies, GoldenEye, with none other than Bond. James Bond. (Fine, Pierce Brosnan, the fourth actor to star as 007).
Whether or not he’s your favorite Bond, you can’t say no to that face.
Put on by Esquire UK, the GoldenEye watchalong will stream live on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds this Sunday 19th April at 7pm BST (2pm ET for American viewers.) According to Esquire UK:
The 66-year-old screen icon will be taking us all behind the scenes of the spy epic, discussing his time in the tuxedo and how it felt to take up the mantle, as well as interacting with his legions of fans – which, of course, is where you come in. We need you to supply us with all the unanswered questions that have been burning away inside your brain for 25 years. Send them over to us via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages now for a chance to get them answered by the main man himself.
The idea is simple: press play on GoldenEye (rental options are listed below) at the same moment as Pierce, and listen along to his play-by-play analysis and commentary in real-time.
The Germans in WWII were at the forefront of industrialized warfare. They produced the first jet-powered bomber, developed the first tilt-rotor plane, and discovered fission. In most cases, Allied scientists and planners struggled to, through long hours of research and experimentation, close the technological gaps exposed by German advances. When possible though, they just stole everything they could find and called it a day.
1. Airborne Operations
The first airborne operations in combat were all executed by Germans during invasions of European countries. Normandy, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands all fell quickly while small units of German paratroopers seized key infrastructure or destroyed enemy defenses ahead of the main army. In the Battle of Crete, British intelligence operatives were able to determine the exact locations that German paratroopers would land and inflicted heavy losses. Adolf Hitler banned future large-scale airborne operations, but Britain and America were impressed by the ability of the airborne to complete their mission despite the losses. The Allies drastically stepped up their training and organizing of airborne units. The paratroopers they trained contributed decisively to the successful invasions of Sicily and Normandy.
Synchropter is a specific class of helicopter, one that uses intermeshing blades that turn in opposite directions. An unmanned version is being evaluated for medical evacuation missions by the Marine Corps. The HH-43 was a Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force synchropter used from the 1950s-1970s as a rescue and firefighting helicopter. Designs for both helicopters borrow heavily from a Fleittner Fl 282 recovered during Operation Lusty. Allied aviators didn’t just benefit from recovering the helicopter though. They also got the designer, Anton Flettner through Operation Paperclip.
3. Jet-powered aircraft
The Messerschmitt Me 262 was the first jet airplane used in combat and it was very effective against Allied bomber formations. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union seized Me 262s as they captured German territory and reverse engineered the German planes. While neither country would finish building jet aircraft during the war, when American F-86 Sabres later faced off against Soviet MiG-15s in MiG Alley over Korea, it was a fight between Me 262 descendants. Similarly, the U.S. captured the Arado Ar 234 jet-powered bomber. Technology from the Arado would go on to be found in the U.S. Army Air Force’s B-45s and B-47s.
4. Cruise missiles
In June 1944, V-1 flying bombs started raining down on London. The V-1, “the buzz bomb”, was inaccurate but took a psychological toll on the British. The U.S. wanted its own version in preparation for the invasion of mainland Japan, and so recovered pieces of crashed and detonated V-1s. By September, it had successfully tested the JB-2 Loon, a virtual copy of the V-1. The JB-2 was never fired in combat since nuclear weapons were dropped first and Japan surrendered. Technology from the V-1 would later appear in the MGM-1 Matador, though the Matador would use a turbojet instead of the pulse jet that gave the V-1 its signature buzzing sound.
Rocket science was one of the key areas of interest during Operation Paperclip. Famously, the scientists who pioneered the U.S. and Soviet space programs were taken from Germany in the final months and years immediately after the war. At first, both the U.S. and Soviets constructed their own V-2 bombs before kicking off the space race in earnest. The stolen V-2s and their creators paved the way for U.S. rocket programs from the Redstone rockets to the Saturn and Apollo missions. The Saturn rocket, used in the Apollo program, is the only rocket that has carried a man outside of low earth orbit.
In the worst military overreaction since the Faber College ROTC pledge pin incident of 1962, the Tennessee National Guard’s adjutant general announced April 18, 2018, that everyone involved in a recent viral video of a kooky reenlistment ceremony would have their careers wrecked, because that’s how you honor our military traditions, dammit.
The controversy revolved around an Air National Guard master sergeant in the Volunteer State who took her oath of reenlistment with a tyrannosaurus rex hand puppet mouthing her words. The internet being the internet, video of the ceremony got around, and some watchers decided it just wasn’t in keeping with the highest traditions of service… unlike all that readily available online imagery of service members reenlisting as imperial stormtroopers; at gunpoint; underwater; in gas chambers; in GameStops; or with rigged-up explosions behind them.
Unlike all those clearly well-intentioned, lighthearted reenlistments, this sinister dino-puppet thing “goes against our very foundation,” according to the Air National Guard’s commanding general. That grave assessment led to this not-at-all bonkers Facebook post from Maj. Gen. Terry M. Haston, the Tennessee Guard’s top cheese, announcing that the master sergeant with the puppet, the colonel who administered the oath to her, and the NCO who acted as cameraman are all fucked, absolutely and utterly fucked (emphasis added):
I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated…
Over the past few days, the leadership of the Tennessee National Guard has conducted a thorough investigation of the event with the following results:
The Colonel (O-6) administering the oath was immediately retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (O-5).
The Senior NCO taking the oath has been removed from her full-time position with the Tennessee Joint Public Affairs Office and other administrative actions are underway.
The Senior NCO who recorded the event has been removed from his position as a unit First Sergeant and has received an official reprimand, but will be retained in the Tennessee Air National Guard…
Let’s get this straight: A colonel was reduced in rank and sent packing, a senior enlisted leader who was reupping is now being drummed out, and the dude with the camera lost his billet and career momentum. Because of a dinosaur hand puppet.
The US Naval Institute completed a poll of its readers to determine the best warships of all time. The Naval Institute urged readers to consider vessels from ancient times to now, and with more than 2,600 votes and almost 900 written responses, they’ve developed a diverse list spanning hundreds of years.
In some cases, readers wrote in recommending whole classes of ships, like aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines, but the list below will only reflect the five specific ships that made the grade.
5. USS Nautilus
Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine in 1951, and in 1954 first lady Mamie Eisenhower christened it.
The Nautilus changed the game when it came to naval warfare, and it ushered in an entirely new era for submarines. This nearly silent sub could hide among the ocean floor undetected, while offering up substantial contributions to surface warfare with cruise, or even nuclear, missiles.
The nuclear sub would go on to form one-third of the US’s nuclear triad.
4. HMS Dreadnought
The HMS Dreadnought ushered in a new era of “all big-gun ships.” Unlike battleships before it, the Dreadnought only had 12-inch cannons aided by electronic range-finding equipment. For defensive, the ship was completely encased in steel.
The Dreadnought presented a suite of technologies so cutting edge that it is often said that it rendered all battleships before it obsolete.
Though the Dreadnought did not have a distinguished service record, it did become the only surface battleship to sink a submarine. It is remembered largely for shifting the paradigm of naval warfare, as opposed to its victories in battle.
3. USS Enterprise
Unlike the Dreadnought, the historians remember the USS Enterprise for its outstanding record in combat.
As the sixth aircraft carrier to join the US Navy in 1936, the Enterprise was one of the first craft to respond after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it survived major battles in Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo during World War II.
Korean Turtle Ships served with the Korean navy for centuries, first coming into play in the Seven Years’ War (1592-1598) between Korea and Japan.
The idea behind the Turtle Ship was to provide an impenetrable floating fortress optimized for boarding enemy craft. The side of the ship is dotted with holes from which the crew can fire cannons and other artillery, while the top of the ship is covered in iron spikes, making it especially dangerous for enemy sailors to board the vessel.
With up to 80 rowers pulling along the heavy craft, the Turtle Ships were brutal but effective.
1. USS Constitution
The USS Constitution, or “Old Ironsides,” as it is affectionately known, first hit the seas as one of the first six frigates in the newly formed US Navy of 1797.
The Constitution had both 30 24-pound cannons and also speed. Not only was it technologically sound for its time, but it was also simply unparalleled and undefeated in battle.
Famously, in 1812, the Constitution fought against the HMS Guerriere, whose guns could not pierce the heavily armored sides of the Constitution.
The Navy’s new next-generation aircraft carrier will likely deploy to the Middle East or Pacific theater, bringing a new generation of carrier technologies to strategically vital parts of the world, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“If you look at where the priorities and activities are now – that is where it will likely go,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
The Navy’s top acquisition official, Sean Stackley, recently told Congress that the new carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will deliver to the Navy in September of this year; following deployment preparations called “post shakedown availability” in 2017 and “shock trials” in 2019, the carrier is slated to deploy in 2021, service officials said. “Shock trials” involve testing the large ship in a series of different maritime conditions such as rough seas and high winds.
The Navy official stressed that no formal decisions have, as of yet, been made regarding deployment and that the USS Ford’s deployment will naturally depend upon what the geopolitical and combat requirements wind up being in the early 2020s.
At the same time, given the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance, it is not difficult or surprising to forsee the new carrier venturing to the Pacific. The power-projection capabilities of the new carrier could likely be designed as a deterrent to stop China from more aggressive activities in places such as the highly-contested South China Sea. The Navy’s plan for the Pacific does call for the service to operate as much as 60-percent of its fleet in the Asia Pacific region.
Also, the continued volatility in the Middle East, and the Navy’s ongoing involvement in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS could very well create conditions wherein the USS Ford would be needed in the Arabian Gulf.
The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.
The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.
As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said. Laser weapons need about 300 kilowatts in order to generate power and fire from a ship.
Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.
The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve an increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.
The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.
The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.
The Navy plans to build Ford-class carriers for at least 50-years as a way to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis. This schedule will bring the Ford carriers service-life well into the next century and serve all the way until at least 2110, Navy leaders have said.
Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.
Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.
For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.
“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.
In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radii of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.
Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report are things already being carefully considered by the Navy.
With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are also things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.
The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”
The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.
While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.
“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”
Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.
At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.
Future Carrier Air Wing
The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.
Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.
Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.
“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.
Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.
The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.
The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.
While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.
“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.
At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.
The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.
“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.
“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.
Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.
The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.
“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier). This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.