Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War - We Are The Mighty
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Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War

The US Central Intelligence Agency has a long history of involvement in political assassinations as real-life James Bonds. Most incidences came out during the old war when the Soviet Union battled with the US for control across the globe. Undercover CIA operations are, by their nature, difficult to unravel. Research into the agency’s work coupled with revelations from former employees has, however, exposed revelations where the agency tried to control several events.

A 19-page manual declassified in 1997 offers a chilling window into how the essential point of assassination is the death of a subject. It highlights that while it is possible to kill a man with bare hands, the simplest locally available tools are often the efficacious means of assassination. The script further goes on to recommend the most efficient accidents, blunt weapons, along with their pros and cons.

During the Cold War, the CIA plotted to assassinate eight global presidents, five of whom have died so far. Here’s a look at how the agency varied its role in cases in which poison was used.

The Poison Pen

Fueled by America’s rivalry with Cuba for over five decades, the CIA attempted to kill then-President Fidel Castro with a poisoned pen. While President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, documents by the National Archives steadily illuminate how Mr. Castro survived the geopolitics war.

Reports on plots to assassinate the Cuban President had become a recurring obsession for the American President. A 1967 document emphasized the extent to which the responsible agency officials almost succumbed to Kennedy’s pressure to do something about Castro and his regime.

Among the attempts described are an attempt to have the Cuban President ingest poison pills, which were given to members working on behalf of the CIA. The agency also tried to gift Mr. Castro a poisoned skin-diving suit and set up a spectacular seashell that would explode upon lifting.

MK-ULTRA Project

The CIA got reports of a communist technique involving drugs that would allow them to control human minds. In retaliation, the CIA commenced its secret mind control program code-named the MK-ULTRA.

Sydney Gottlieb, a chemist and poisoner in chief who operated the program from the 1950s through the 60s, sustained the most comprehensive search in history for mind control. While universities and research centers funded some operations, Gottlieb conducted most experiments at American detention centers in Japan, the Philippines, and Germany – American-controlled territories at that time; hence, there was no need to worry about legal implications.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Sydney Gottlieb. Wikimedia Commons

In his trials to establish a way to seize control of people’s minds, Gottlieb found a way to blast through the existing mind then insert a “new mind” into the resulting gap. Much of his work on the first was successful, but he didn’t make much progress on the second.

Essentially, the MK-ULTRA mind control program enhanced work that had begun in Nazi and Japanese concentration camps. Reports unravel how the CIA hired torturers working in the camps to document what they found and later build on the mind-control research program.

On the more extreme trials conducted by Gottlieb in American-controlled territories at that time, the CIA was capturing enemy agents or persons otherwise termed “expendables” and expose them to all sorts of drug poison experiments, electroshock, extremes of temperature, and isolation. All these were geared to find how to break the resistance of the human ego while demanding answers from their hard questions.

Worse still, Gottlieb was allowed unsupervised access to human subjects and subjected them to all sorts of torture he wanted – even to the extent of it being fatal. Although Gottlieb was in many ways a ‘humane’ person, he indeed turned out to be the most proficient torturer of his time.

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Here’s what’s next for the A-10

The A-10 is a Cold War-era ground-attack plane known for its iconic gun designed to shred tanks and for its tough titanium armor designed to take hits and keep flying.


That durability is noticeable not only on the battlefield, but also increasingly on Capitol Hill, where supporters of the Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog or simply Hog, have seemingly succeeded in dissuading Air Force officials from renewing attempts to retire the snub-nosed plane.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2018 budget request released this month calls for keeping its fleet of A-10s — which stood at 283 as of Sept. 30 — in service for at least five more years.

To recap: The service — facing financial pressure driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion a year and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the A-10 retirement would be delayed until 2022 after lawmakers complained that doing so would rid the military of a “valuable and effective” close-air-support aircraft.

Related: Watch the effects of an A-10’s GAU-8 cannon on an enemy building

However, fiscal 2017 budget request documents showed the Air Force still planned to remove A-10 squadrons in increments between 2018 and 2022 to make room for F-35A Lightning II squadrons coming online.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Many servicemembers across the military doubt the F-35’s ability to replace the A-10. | US Air Force / WATM

Members of Congress, notably Arizona Republicans Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot, and Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s during her Air Force career, fiercely opposed the move, and included language in the bill that would prohibit retirement of the Warthog until the Air Force could prove the F-35 is able to perform similar missions as effectively on the battlefield.

In October, Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said the depot line for the A-10 was cranking back up as part of an effort to keep the Cold War-era aircraft flying “indefinitely.”

The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground. (A-10 fans describe the distinctive sound its seven-barrel 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon makes when firing as “brrrt.”)

So the retirement push appears to have dissipated — at least, for now.

Indeed, the Air Force’s budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes modest funding for A-10 modifications in coming years. The service over the past decade worked with Boeing Co. to replace the wings on 173 of the aircraft as part of a program scheduled to wrap up this year.

Also Read: This pilot landed his F-15 with only one wing

For fiscal 2018, the service asked for $6 million in procurement funding to upgrade the A-10 with the latest version of the satellite-based transponder known as the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B, to comply with a Federal Aviation Administration rule for the new technology, according to budget documents.

In addition, the service requested $17.5 million in research and development funding to test the ADS-B Out software on the A-10 squadrons through 2022, budget documents show.

This work “extends the viability and survivability” of the aircraft, according to an Air Force spokeswoman who spoke to Military.com on background because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the budget request. “As long as we can continue to fund these fleets, they will be survivable and lethal.”

Through the wing replacement program and maintenance work, the Air Force wants to preserve the longevity of the aircraft, potentially by doubling its life from 8,000 flight hours to 16,000 flight hours.

In an interview with FlightGlobal earlier this year, then-Air Combat Commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle suggested new wings on the plane could keep it flying into the 2030s.

The spokeswoman couldn’t say whether this program would be expanded into future years.

“This is exactly why we need long-term budget stability and flexibility — no longer reacting to make tradeoff decisions year to year,” she said. “We’re not in the position right now, but we don’t know” what could happen next year.

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That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
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7 ways drones are ruining everything

Drones save lives on the battlefield and engineers are finding new uses for them everyday. But, not all drone innovations are good things. Here are seven things that drones are quickly ruining.


1. Paintball

Paintball was once about grown children shooting each other with tiny blobs of paint, but drone operators are shoehorning themselves into the mock combat. Suddenly, paintball has pogues. You can also see drone-on-drone aerial paintball if you don’t like excitement.

2. Firefighting

Firefighters keep running into problems with drones. Hobbyists fly them close to wildfires to get video of the flames, blocking aircraft needed to fight the fire. Helicopters and airplanes filled with fire retardant and water have to wait on the ground until the drones get out of the way.

3. Fight clubs

Fight clubs are supposed to be filled with angry people pummeling each other, not flying lights slowly colliding.

4. Weddings

Sure, flying a drone at the wedding gives a lot of shots that you couldn’t otherwise get. But, maybe focus on not injuring the bride instead of getting better angles.

5. Security of military installations and The White House

Military bases are always wary of being photographed or videotaped by people potentially planning an attack or trying to collect secrets. That makes drones flying near a base a big problem. Even the White House has had issues with drones flying over the fence.

6. Underground racing

Remember when underground racing was about fast cars and outrunning the police when they inevitably arrived? Well, drones have ruined that too. Now it’s basically mosquitoes flying around a parking garage.

7. Flying saucer theories

The idea of little green men spying on humans holds a draw for certain segments of the population, but modern “sightings” of potential alien craft are almost always drones which can easily be made to look like flying saucers.

NOW: This guy made a drone that can fire a handgun, and it’s kinda nuts

OR: There’s going to be a ‘Top Gun 2’ – with drones

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These were the US military’s Cold War black ops nuclear hit squads

You’ve probably heard of the term “backpack nuke” before — perhaps in the context of a video game like Call of Duty, or an action-packed television show like “24.”


But what you may or may not have realized is that backpack nukes are the farthest thing from fiction, and from the 1950s to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1989, they sat ready to be deployed by America’s black-ops nuclear hit squads — dubbed “Green Light Teams” — should the unthinkable happen and the Cold War turn hot.

Only members of the US military’s elite were selected to join GLTs, where they would be stationed near Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, inside South Korea, and even near Iran in the late 1970s.

Navy SEALs, Force Reconnaissance Marines, Army Special Forces and more were all among the top recruits for the GLT program. If a candidate’s application to the GLT program was successful, they were sworn to secrecy, unable to tell even their own spouses of their mission. Had the Soviet Union heard of the existence of these teams, it would have likely created a similar program of its own as a counter, removing all value of possessing GLTs.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
A test detonation of a W54 warhead (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

These operatives were trained in local languages and dialects, and told to dress like ordinary citizens, allowing them to blend in without anybody the wiser. The vast majority of their training, however, came in the form of instruction on how to use backpack nukes at the Atomic Demolitions Munitions School at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

There, GLT selectees were taught how to detonate nuclear weapons, and how to bury them or disguise them so that these weapons wouldn’t be discovered and defused before they could do their job.

The weapon of choice for each GLT was the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The warhead used in each SADM was taken from a US Army program dubbed the “Davy Crockett Weapon System.” The Crockett was actually a recoilless rifle-fired projectile tipped with a W54 nuclear warhead with a yield of 10-20 tons of TNT.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Officials analyze a W54 warhead used in both the Davy Crockett system and the SADM backpack nuke (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The W54 was modified to detonate with a yield of anywhere between 10 tons of TNT to 1 kiloton, though in testing, it was proven to be able to achieve over 6 kilotons. Weighing just 51 pounds when nestled inside the SADM, it could be hefted onto an operative’s back and carried for long distances almost inconspicuously.

Should the combat environment or the mission change, GLTs could also parachute or swim their SADMs into enemy territory without fears of the backpack nuke prematurely blowing up. And when the nukes were in their detonation zones, they could be disguised as anything.

Citizens of Eastern Europe or North Korea could potentially walk by beer kegs, trash cans, or even mailboxes without being any the wiser that a primed SADM sat in side, ready to unleash unholy hell upon them. Operatives were also trained to bury their backpack nukes as deep as 9 ft underground to make them undiscoverable.

SADMs could be placed near lakes or rivers to create artificial dams as obstacles for advancing Soviet forces, or in cities,

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
An SADM on display at the National Atomic Museum (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Though the SADM came with a timing mechanism to allow for a delayed detonation sequence so operatives could escape the region, GLT operatives knew that should they be called into action, they were essentially running a suicide mission. They would still have to protect the device from being detected by enemy forces, and that would necessarily involve the GLT staying nearby, armed with submachine guns, grenades and pistols.

The US military was able to keep the existence of its GLTs a closely-guarded secret until near the end of the Cold War, when their mission was somewhat accidentally disclosed to the public. Upon finding out that a number of GLTs were positioned in West Germany, local officials immediately asked the US government to remove all SADMs from German sovereign territory.

By 1989, the SADMs were retired altogether and permanently deactivated, never having been used in combat. All active GLT operatives were brought in from the cold and returned to the US, and just a few short years later, the fall of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War – thankfully, with nary a nuke being detonated in anger by either side.

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Chinese Navy carries out brazen heist of American UUV

The People’s Liberation Army Navy stole an American unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) conducting oceanographic research Thursday in plain view of a U.S. Navy vessel about fifty miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines.


According to a report from the Washington Examiner, the brazen heist took place in international waters as the oceanographic research vessel USNS Bowditch (T AGS 62), a Pathfinder-class ship.

The BBC reported that the vessel responsible for the heist was ASR-510, identified in Combat Fleets of the World as a Dalang III-class “rescue and salvage” ship. The Chinese vessel apparently came within 500 yards of the Bowditch, lowered a small boat and seized the littoral battlespace sensing (LBS) glider.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Daniel Braun, left, Eric Sanchez and David Barney, Systems Center Pacific engineers at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), perform pre-deployment inspections on littoral battlespace sensing gliders aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60). Each glider hosts a payload suite of sensors that will measure the physical characteristics of the water column as the glider routinely descends and ascends in the ocean. The gliders will be deployed during an at-sea test aboard Pathfinder Oct. 22-Nov. 5. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “Bowditch made contact with the PRC Navy ship via bridge-to-bridge radio to request the return of the UUV. The radio contact was acknowledged by the PRC Navy ship, but the request was ignored.  The UUV is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law.”

According to a 2010 Navy release, the LBS glider can operate for up to eight months on a lithium battery. The data gathered by these gliders assist in everything from special operations to mine warfare to anti-submarine warfare.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) — Navy file photo of the T-AGS 60 Class Oceanographic Survey Ship, USNS Bowditch. Her mission includes oceanographic sampling and data collection of surface, midwater and ocean floor parameters; launch and recovery of hydrographic survey launches (HSLs); the launching , recovering and towing of scientific packages (both tethered and autonomous), including the handling, monitoring and servicing of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs); shipboard oceanogaphic data processing and sample analysis; and precise navigation, trackline maneuvering and station keeping to support deep-ocean and coastal surveys. There are 5 ships in this class. (U.S. Navy photo)

This is not the first time the Bowditch has been involved in a maritime incident with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Globalsecurity.org noted that a week before the 2001 EP-3 incident in which a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 Finback collided with a U.S. Navy electronic surveillance plane, a Chinese frigate came very close to the unarmed vessel. The Bowditch, which is manned by a civilian crew, also was involved in incidents in 2002 and 2003.

China claims ownership of the South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “Nine-Dash Line.” An international panel rejected Chinese claims earlier this year in a case brought by the Philippines. The Chinese boycotted the process, and have since armed a number of artificial islands in the disputed region. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Chinese forces rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the disputed waters.

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Here are the best military photos of the week

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


AIR FORCE:

Two C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 437th Airlift Wing prepare to drop Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The mass tactical exercise helped prepare both units for any future real-world scenarios they may face.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Taylor Queen

Members with the 374th Maintenance Squadron pull a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 15, 2016. The aircraft was pulled as part of the 374th Maintenance Group’s Maintenance Rodeo Competition, which pits squadrons against each other in various tasks to win points toward an award and bragging rights.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, pilot 32 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters during a during farewell flight over Fort Bragg, N.C., April 15, 2016. The flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville community.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) photo by Kenneth Kassens

Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct a simulated air assault operation during exercise #SaberJunction 16 at 7th Army JMTC, Grafenwoehr, Germany, April 18, 2016. The exercise includes nearly 5,000 participants from 16 NATO partner nations and is designed to evaluate the readiness of U.S. Army Europe based combat brigades.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Randy Wren

NAVY:

KUMAMOTO, Japan (April 19, 2016) An MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit departs JS Hyuga (DDH 181) in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto. The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japan Self-Defense Force and civil relief efforts.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gabriel B. Kotico

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 20, 2016) Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Nicholas Noviello inspects Sailors’ dress white uniforms in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Ike is underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Theodore Quintana

MARINE CORPS:

Staff Sgt. Dylan M. Worrell observes the terrain at the bottom of a cavern before commencing confined space entry training at a cave on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa Pon

Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Horton, assault man with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa zip lines into the ocean during a French Commando aquatic training event aboard Fort-Miradou, France.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kassie L. McDole

COAST GUARD:

Crewmembers aboard USCGC Kukui (WLB 203) enjoy the sunset from the fantail while underway in the Pacific Ocean, March 17, 2016. The crew is currently underway for a fisheries and law enforcement patrol in the western and central Pacific.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

“We work long days to stay proficient in our craft so that we will be ready to respond when we are needed. We are the Bering Sea Cutter.” – Capt. Sam Jordan, Munro commanding officer.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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How the SAS has deployed to London’s streets to stop another terrorist attack

In the wake of a recent spate of terrorist attacks in London, the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has turned to the country’s elite Special Air Service counter-terrorist forces to blend into the city’s landscape in hopes of stopping another attack before it starts.


While they’re reportedly deploying alongside police units wearing special uniforms and carrying the latest commando gear, the SAS troopers are also said to be disguising themselves as homeless people and sleeping on city streets.

“The threat level is still assessed by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre as severe and that means an attack is highly likely so we must be ready,” a military source told the Daily Mail. “These soldiers provide a very good layer of immediate response at least to ­minimize casualties or stop injuries or deaths if they react quickly.”

Other SAS operators posing as civilians are offering handouts to the “homeless” commandos to keep them fed and supplied, the paper said.

Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom doesn’t have a Posse Comitatus Act that prohibits the deployment of military forces within the country at the direction of the government. While this might have some scratching their heads, it has many feeling much safer in the wake of recent terrorist attacks which have left scores wounded and killed.

In order to diminish the threat to UK residents and citizens, May has not-so-subtly authorized the British military to turn the SAS loose throughout the country in an effort to prevent further attacks and to hunt down would-be terrorists before they can carry out their dastardly plans.

Soon after initial reports on the May 22 bombing in the lobby of the Manchester Arena surfaced, Blue Eurocopter Dauphins belonging to the British Army Air Corps’ 658 Squadron appeared on rooftops of the city, offloading kitted-out SAS troops, armed to the teeth with assault rifles and sub-machine guns.

In the days since, news media across the UK have noted that these SAS warfighters have been assisting British police teams in assaulting the hideouts of terrorists around the country, sweeping for accomplices who may have been involved in the planning and execution of various terror attacks this year.

According to The Mirror, troops from the SAS’s G-Squadron and Counter Revolutionary Warfare Wing have also been posted in the UK’s largest cities, walking among the general public without anybody the wiser in the hopes of catching terrorists unawares while they attempt to attack unassuming civilians going about their daily lives. These fully operational troops have been trained to blend in, only stepping out with their weapons drawn if the need arises.

The Special Air Service was formed during the Second World War in Africa, an asymmetric warfare detachment of the British Army equipped with jeeps and machine guns to harass German military units when they least expected it. First led by eccentric officer and adventurer, Sir David Stirling, the SAS proved its worth and began operating in the European theater during the war.

In the Cold War, its mission evolved along with the threats the rest of the world faced, and counter-terrorism became a priority, remaining its top directive to this very day.

Recruits vying for a shot at joining the SAS and earning its coveted beige beret face an arduous journey ahead, involving grueling physical tests, sleep and meal deprivation, and a long-distance forced march across a mountain in Wales which has to be accomplished within a time limit. The attrition rates have consistently been incredibly high throughout the selection course’s history and, controversially, the course has even claimed the lives of a few of its attendees.

Upon being selected to the SAS, candidates are trained to be master marksmen, expert drivers, free-fall skydivers and more in a diverse array of climates and environments.

By the end of their training, these soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the very best special operations forces in the world.

This is not the first time the SAS has seen action inside British borders. In early 1980, the unit was deployed to London to take down the Iranian embassy after terrorists seized control of the diplomatic house, taking a number of civilians hostage. After negotiations failed, SAS teams assaulted the embassy, killing all but one of the perpetrators while arresting the sole survivor. This event is recounted in vivid detail in the upcoming movie “6 Days.”

In the years since the Iranian embassy siege, the SAS has been sent to a number of combat zones throughout the world, operating from the Falklands in the early 1980s to the Middle East in the present day. In Iraq, members of the SAS served as part of a joint multinational hunter-killer unit known as Task Force Black/Knight, systematically rooting out and eliminating terrorists in-country. More recently, it has been rumored that the SAS is once again active in the Middle East, functioning alongside allied partners with the goal of destroying ISIS through both pinpoint attacks and brute force.

While British citizens can sleep well at night, now knowing that their nations’ finest walk incognito in their midst, potential terrorists will likely quiver with the knowledge that these elite operators stand ready in the shadows to visit violence upon those who would do their countrymen harm.

 

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This Iron Man-like exoskeleton is designed to keep operators alive

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
An early TALOS prototype

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

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Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.


FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.

The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.

The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.

Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.

“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
The Limited Edition versions include many of the accessories troops are issued alongside their rifle. (Photo credit FN America)

Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.

The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.

The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
The FN America M249S SAW is about as awesome as it can get. (Photo credit FN America)

The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.

For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.

The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.

While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.

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New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

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7 ways military rations used to be a lot better

Military scientists work tirelessly to make modern rations as light, nutritious, and healthy as possible for the warfighter. But they don’t seem to care about them being awesome at all. Here are 7 things they’ve removed from the menu that modern troops may enjoy.


1. Liquor

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Photo: Wikipedia/Bbadgett

From the Revolutionary War through 1832, soldiers received a “spirits ration” of rum, brandy, or whiskey. The standard spirits ration was replaced with coffee and sugar, but leaders could still order special alcohol rations for their soldiers until 1865 when an order from the War Department discontinued the practice.

2. Cigarettes

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Cigarettes were included in soldier rations from World War II until 1975.

3. Meals made almost entirely of candy

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Photo: Wikipedia/Hershey’s

The assault ration of World War II contained chocolate, caramel, chewing gum, peanuts, and dried fruit as well as cigarettes, salt tablets, and water-purification tablets. They provided between 1,500 and 2,000 calories but were obviously lacking in important nutrients like protein, vitamins, and everything else that isn’t sugar.

4. Spice packs

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Expert field cooks know to bring packets of spices with them to the field, but soldiers used to have them issued. The smallest pack was devised in World War II and served 100 soldiers for 10 days, so soldiers still had to make it to the company headquarters or higher to use the spices.

5. Field cooking equipment

Troops in the Revolutionary War through the Civil War were issued cooking gear. Usually, one out of every five or so soldiers would receive the cooking gear and soldiers would cook as a group. This allowed them to add ingredients they found on the march by just tossing them into the pot.

6. Soap

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Photo: Wikipedia

Troops today are expected to wash with baby wipes collected from care packages and purchased from the exchange, but soldiers from the Revolutionary War through World War II got soap in their rations. The quantity issued varied between .183 ounces up to .64 ounces per day.

7. Extremely high-calorie rations

MREs contain about 1,250 calories each and troops can eat three per day on operations for 3,750 calories. Back in World War II, the Army issued rations with 4,800 calories per person, per day, so there were probably fewer complaints about still being hungry after the meal. But these weren’t nice presents from the Army. These were “Mountain Rations” designed specifically for men cross-country skiing and mountain climbing. There was a similar ration for jungle combat that contained 4,000 calories.

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These 7 photos reveal how secret warriors invaded West Virginia

After Russia’s incursion into Georgia several years ago and the covert operation to take over the Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the former Soviet Republics along the Baltic coast view the Russian bear as an increasing threat.


More fearful than ever that a replay of Sevastopol could happen in Vilnius or Tallinn, troops from the Baltic states have been working ever closer with the American military to hone their skills, forge stronger bonds and develop tactics and protocols to defend themselves if the Spetsnaz drops in on their doorstep.

While American troops have been deploying recently for joint exercises with NATO’s northern allies in Europe, some of the Baltic countries’ most specialized troops have been coming to the U.S. for real-world training.

In February a joint team of U.S. special operators from the 10th Special Forces Group, National Guard soldiers and commandos from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia infiltrated a 500,000 acre range in the mountains of West Virginia to practice covert ops, kick in some doors and do some snake-eater sh*t.

Dubbed Range Runner 2017, the exercise includes all the facets of special operations warfare, including counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, stability operations, foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare and allows for dynamic infiltration routes, including water, air and land with support from fixed wing, rotary wing and water rescue groups, the military says.

So how awesome was this joint commando exercise? Take a look.

1. Special operators get some assaulter practice

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move to assault a building containing high-value adversary targets during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)

2. The joint commando teams work on infiltration via horseback

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts an infiltration movement on horseback during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 12, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

3. The special operators work together on sensitive sight exploitation methods

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), search through a cabin room as they conduct sensitive sight exploitation training during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

4. They even go through the bad guy’s trash…

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Special Operations Forces search for evidence during a sensitive sight exploitation training event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

5. The special operations troops are hounded by local forces who track their movement

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
A canine unit with the West Virginia State Police assists U.S. Special Operations Forces and interagency joint partners with the West Virginia and Pennsylvania National Guard in partnering with special operations forces soldiers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an escape and evasion training exercise event as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia.

6. The Special Forces soldiers use old-school methods to pass messages without radios

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
U.S. Special Operations Forces with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a message pickup with the aid of a DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 6, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher Stevenson)

7. Once they’ve gotten what they wanted, the commandos exfil via helicopter

Why poison was a favorite of the CIA during the Cold War
Estonian Special Operations Force soldiers, along with U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and soldiers of the West Virginia National Guard, quickly move toward an aircraft for exfiltration during an air-assault training exercise as part of Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 23, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Smith)

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