The services of private security companies have expanded so much over the last 20 years that they are now referred to as private military companies (PMCs) in some circles. PMCs have assumed all the different roles of war, from backend logistics, to training, to consulting, to battlefield operations, and more. The private military industry was a $218 billion industry in 2014 and business is growing, according to the Vice video below.
There are many reasons why hiring a PMC is more attractive than maintaining a military, and companies like ACADEMI (formerly Blackwater), Aegis, and others are redefining what war might look like in the future.
This VICE video explores the origins of the PMC industry and how the war on terror has fueled its growth.
Fighter pilots have to pass a lot of tests before they get control of a jet. One of their first tests is the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. We’ve pulled 15 questions from Air Force Personnel Test 997, an information pamphlet on the AFOQT. All questions included here are questions that would, on the AFOQT, count towards the pilot composite score. (We’ve also included awesome jet photos whenever a visual isn’t needed to answer a question. You’re welcome . . .)
This episode features the dramatic role of the U.S Rangers on D-Day during World War II. Leonard Lomell and Sidney Salomon, from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, were among those who comprised America’s first Special Forces group. They were part of the first wave landing on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.
China just released a gallery of photos showcasing their airborne military might. The images depict Beijing’s domestically made jet fighters flying in impressive aerial formations. Some of the planes are fully armed.
These pictures, released by China’s state news service, Xinhuanet, reveal the extent of China’s domestic military aircraft development, a crucial element in its efforts to become Asia’s unquestioned military and strategic power.
The Chinese Chengdu JF-17 is a multi-role fighter introduced as an upgrade to the J-7, a reworking of the 1950s Soviet Mig-29.
The J-11s also are based on Soviet models — they strongly resemble the Sukhoi-30, which debuted in 1989.
Here’s what an armed J-11 looks like.
Here, J-11s fly in formation above the Chinese countryside.
Chinese J-11s fly in formation.
J-11 jets streak across the sky.
Here are two J-10s, multirole aircraft meant to replace the older J-7.
J-10s ascend in tight formation, using colored smoke to create a brilliant aerial display.
A view of the J-10s from the ground
This is a JH-7 “Flying Leopard,” a lightweight, twin engine fighter/bomber that was introduced into service in 1990.
Col. Walker “Bud” Mahurin was an American combat fighter pilot. Flying P-47s with the 56th FG in WWII, he became an ace three times over in the skies over France and Germany. He was shot down once but returned with the help of the French underground.
After the war Mahurin remained in the newly independent U.S. Air Force. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 found him in the Pentagon, working on new fighter aircraft procurement. The skills he exhibited in WWII would once again be tested, this time in a new arena of air warfare…the jet age dogfight. In this episode, Mahurin tells his dramatic story of returning to combat in Korea.
The 1st Air Cavalry Division was the most lethal assault force assembled in Vietnam. The pilots were the first to fully harness the power of helicopters and their soldier’s combat record was second to none. Steven E Warren served a year in the infantry in Vietnam, but then returned home to train to fly helicopters at Fort Rucker. Soon he returned to the conflict, as a Huey helicopter pilot in the 1st Air Cavalry. We spoke with him about his combat experiences, helping to perfect this new kind of warfare.
1994 was the 50th anniversary of D-Day. Throughout that year, The Honor Project sat down with dozens of veterans off the Normandy Invasion to hear their stories and to put these Heroes of Our Nation On Record. O.B. Hill was a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, one of four regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division. In this Episode, he recounts dramatic stories of his training and combat experiences and he eloquently expresses his thoughts on the nature of war and and how it impacted him and his fellow paratroopers.
Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.
Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.
The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.
Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.
Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.
To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.
There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.
While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.
“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”
Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.
The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?
Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.
But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.
Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.
And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.
Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.
The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.
But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.
And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.
“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.
If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?
At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.
But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.
None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.
“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.
It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.
The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.
And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.
There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.
What about the sounds people heard?
Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.
But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.
The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.
After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.
At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .
Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.
The Cuba Theory
It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.
The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.
Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.
But what’s the motive?
When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.
Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.
Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?
The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.
If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.
It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.
“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.
But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.
Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.
So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.
Who else would dare?
US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.
Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.
Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.
None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.
Spying Gone Awry?
Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.
Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.
You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.
During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.
The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.
Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.
Seven Bucks Productions recently announced plans to adapt the critically-acclaimed novel The Janson Directive into a live-action film. Dwayne Johnson is producing the film and John Cena is cast in the lead role, playing Paul Janson. While that alone should be enough to get audiences excited, everything else about the film has it set to be an outstanding spy flick.
The author of the source material, Robert Ludlum, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and, during his assignment to Pearl Harbor, he spent every possible day in the library — learning the craft of storytelling and immersing himself in classical history. His other works include The Osterman Weekend and, most notably, The Bourne Identity.
The script is being written by Akiva Goldsman, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind, and adapted by James Vanderbilt, writer of Zodiac and White House Down.
Originally, Dwayne Johnson was cast as Janson but stepped back to produce it.
The novel is a spy thriller set after the Vietnam War. The protagonist is a former Navy SEAL and covert operative for a fictional spy agency turned corporate security consultancy. After a job to protect a Nobel Peace Prize-winning laureate goes horrible awry, Janson is blamed for their death.
In order to clear his name, Janson must single-handedly infiltrate his former spy agency to earn his freedom, but risks revealing countless government secrets that could shatter world peace in the process.
Outside of the insanely awesome plot, the novel actually delves deep into the psyche of a man living through post-traumatic stress as he struggles to determine whether his own life is worth revealing a placating lie that is keeping the world safe.
On August 6th and 9th of 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing significant death and destruction in both places. To this day, the bombings remain history’s only acts of nuclear warfare.
A lot has been established about the immediate preparations for the dropping of the bombs, known as “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” which were loaded onto airplanes on the North Field airbase on Tinian Island, part of the Northern Mariana Islands to the south of Japan.
Until recently few photographs were available of the final hours before the bombings. But newly declassified pictures shed additional light on the procedures leading up to the nuclear attacks, giving a chilling glimpse into how and where the most destructive bombs ever used in warfare were loaded.
Soldiers check the casings on the “Fat Man” atomic bomb. Multiple test bombs were created on Tinian Island. All were roughly identical to an operational bomb, even though they lacked the necessary equipment to detonate.
On the left, geophysicist and Manhattan Project participant Francis Birch marks the bomb unit that would become “Little Boy” while Norman Ramsey, who would later win the Nobel Prize in Physics, looks on.
A technician applies sealant and putty to the crevices of “Fat Man,” a final preparation to make sure the environment inside the bomb would be stable enough to sustain a full impact once the bomb was detonated.
Soldiers and workers sign their names and other messages on the nose of “Fat Man.”
Here’s a closer look.
“Fat Man” is loaded onto a transport trailer and given a final once-over.
The bomb is then escorted to the nearby North Field airbase on Tinian, shrouded in tarp.
At the airfield, “Fat Man” is lined up over a pit specifically constructed for it, from which it is then loaded into the plane that dropped it over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
Both pits for “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” each roughly 8 feet by 12 feet, still exist today on the island and now serve as a memorial.
The bomb and its trailer are lowered down into the pit using a hydraulic lift.
Workers check “Little Boy” one last time, keeping the tarp on for security reasons. They used a similar lowering procedure for “Fat Man” three days later.
Once “Little Boy” is ready, the Enola Gay, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, is reversed and positioned over the trench.
The tarp is removed and the bomb is readied for loading.
Using the hydraulic lift, “Little Boy” is carefully raised and loaded into the belly of the Enola Gay.
Once inside the plane, the bomb is secured and all connections and equipment are checked again.
From there, both “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” were flown over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, and detonated. World War II ended shortly afterwards, but at a cost: an estimated 250,000 people were killed or injured in the attacks, most of them civilians.