Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises - We Are The Mighty
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Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sept. 18, attended the week-long war games with Belarus that have demonstrated the Russian military’s resurgent might and made neighboring countries nervous.


Putin observed the Zapad 2017 drills — tank attacks, airborne assaults, and air raids that got underway Sept. 14 — at the Luzhsky range in western Russia, just over 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) east of Estonia’s border.

As part of the maneuvers, the Russian military on Sept. 18 also test-fired its state-of-the-art cruise missile at a mock target in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, showcasing the weapon’s extended range and precision strike capability.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Some nervous NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized an alleged lack of transparency about the war games and questioned Moscow’s intentions.

Related: This video of a Russian helicopter accidentally firing on observers is crazy

The exercises, held in several firing ranges in Belarus and western Russia, run through Sept. 20. Russia and Belarus say 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops are participating, but some NATO countries have estimated that up to 100,000 troops could be involved.

With Russia’s relations with the West at a post-Cold War low point over the fighting in Ukraine, worries about the war games ranged from allegations that Russia could permanently deploy its forces to Belarus to fears of a surprise onslaught on the Baltics.

Russia and Belarus have said the exercises simulate a response to foreign-backed “extremists” and insisted the maneuvers don’t threaten anyone.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Russian Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Their troops are fighting three invented “aggressor countries” — Veishnoriya, Lubeniya, and Vesbariya. However, the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — and Poland see the monikers for the made up enemies as thinly disguised references to their nations.

NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and staged regular drills in the region, activities Moscow has criticized as a reflection of the alliance’s hostile intentions.

Also read: Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and Belarus kept the stated number of troops involved in the drills just below 13,000, a limit allowing them to dodge more intrusive inspections by NATO in line with international agreements. The practice maneuvers nonetheless have put Russia’s massive military mobilization capability on display.

They also have involved various branches of the Russian military, including the air force’s long-range bombers and missile forces. In a reflection of the drills’ broad scope, they featured the Sept. 18 launch of the Iskander-M cruise missile, a new weapon that has drawn concern from the United States.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

The missile, launched from the Kapustin Yar firing range in southwestern Russia, hit a mock target at a range in Kazakhstan, some 480 kilometers (nearly 300 miles) away, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The US has accused Russia of developing cruise missiles banned by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with a goal to threaten US facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance. Moscow has rejected the accusations and insisted it has adhered to the pact.

The INF Treaty bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The Iskander-M’s stated range puts it just below the pact’s threshold.

The Zapad 2017 maneuvers are intended to underline the close military cooperation between Russia and Belarus, but also revealed signs of strains between the allies.

While Putin watched the previous drills in 2013 with his Belarusian counterpart, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said he would watch them separately on Sept. 20.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Zapad ’13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Lukashenko has relied on subsidized Russian oil and gas supplies and billions of dollars in loans to keep his nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat. At the same time, he often has bristled at what he described as the Kremlin’s attempts to subdue Belarus and force it to surrender control over prized economic assets.

Lukashenko also has flirted with the West to try to reduce his dependence on Russia. His decision to dodge a joint appearance with Putin at the military exercises was seen by observers as an attempt to put some distance between Belarus and its giant eastern neighbor.

“Lukashenko is trying to mend ties with the West to get new loans, and the Kremlin’s military games don’t help that,” Alexander Klaskovsky, a Minsk-based political analyst, said.

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March through Russia with the ‘Immortal Regiment’

Every May, in celebration of Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day), thousands of people take to the streets all over Russia with portraits of their ancestors who fought in World War II. They mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in an event called the “Immortal Regiment” march.


Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin led the march through Red Square, one of the largest turnouts in memory, carrying a portrait of his father, who fought the Russians in The Great Patriotic War, what the Soviet Union called WWII. The final tally saw 12 million people march across the country in 2015. They march to remember those who fought in the conflict and remember the sacrifices their forebears made.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Felipe Tofani is a photographer and Art Director based in Germany who happened to be in St. Petersburg, Russia during 2015’s Immortal Regiment March. He marched with the Russians and took a beautiful series of photos for his photography blog, Fotostrasse.  He also recorded his thoughts as he marched in the parade that day.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“Russians seem to go crazy with at the Victory Parade,” Tofani wrote. “There were a lot of people dressed in the military uniforms from the Soviet Union.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“We grew up in Brazil and we never learned about the importance of Russia in the Second World War. In Brazil, you learn about the Allied Victory over Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union gets a secondary importance in the fight.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“Everything changed when we moved to Berlin and learned about the Cold War and the Second World War from a different point of view. From that day, we knew we had to visit Russia and pay our respects to all those who died.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“There were soldiers in this greenish uniform marching and a lot of red Soviet flags. It was our first sight of the Victory Parade and we were amazed by that.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“The idea behind the Immortal Regiment is to honor the memory of the heroes who earned a hard-won victory over Nazi Germany.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“The Immortal Regiment is to immortalize family memory. The Immortal Regiment brings people together to remember the grandparents and parents that fought from 1941 to 1945.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“We read about the veteran parade a little later. But we didn’t know what it was since most of the people that were veterans during the Second World War were already dead.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

“We took pictures of everything and that includes a SUV that was transformed into a Katyusha rocket launcher.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

All photos are owned by Felipe Tofani, and used by permission. See Tofani’s original post on Fotostrasse.

NOW: 17 Insane Russian military inventions

OR: The Russian Air Force is trolling the West

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This is how an open ocean battle between the American and Chinese navy could go

With the tensions in the South China Sea rising, there’s always a chance that things could explode into open warfare. But how would the first major naval battle between the United States and China go?


For starters, let’s assume that China has deployed the Liaoning and one of its home-built copies of that carrier, and that each has a single Type 55 destroyer, two Luyang II-class destroyers, and a Lyuang I-class destroyer as escorts.

Figure China will also have some nuclear submarines, land-based H-6 “Badger” bombers, and a number of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles. China will also have the use of island bases in the South China Sea, including Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
A H-6 Badger bomber. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The United States would probably deploy the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), currently the forward-deployed carrier based in Japan, escorted by two Ticonderoga-class cruisers and four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, with a pair of Virginia-class submarines and a pair of Improved 688-class submarines in support, along with land-based bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base (eight B-1B Lancers, four B-2A Spirits, and eight B-52H Stratofortesses).

This first battle will possibly be fought after China makes an aggressive move against the Philippines in the South China Sea. China would then seek to consolidate the gains. The United States would hope to inflict a significant reverse on China, which would be putting all of its carriers eggs into the fight. The Type 001 Liaoning and Type 001A would each be able to carry a small air wing of roughly 18 J-15 Flankers and a dozen helicopters for anti-submarine warfare.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
An F-35C takes off from the deck of the USS George Washinton. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)

By way of comparison, the Reagan will be operating 12 F-35C Lightings, 24 F/A-18E Super Hornets, 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets, and more importantly, support aircraft like EA-18G Growlers, E-2C Hawkeyes, and MQ-25 Stingray UAVs. Furthermore, this may not include Marine F-35Bs and Air Force F-16s, F-15s, and F-35s operating out of Okinawa.

China will try to get a targeting solution for the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles. However, both the length of time to target and send orders to fire the missiles mean that their biggest effect will be virtual attrition. However, the United States will make its own play – and inflict real attrition on the Chinese.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

First, the U.S. will use its edge in maritime patrol to locate the enemy groups. Then, the Reagan will launch what appears to be a massive Alpha Strike targeting the carriers. The Chinese carriers will scramble their ready planes… only to find out that the “strike” is really a sea-going version of Operation Bolo.

The Flankers will be shot out of the sky in a flurry of AMRAAMs.

Then, the Amercian submarines will target and sink the Chinese air-defense destroyers with torpedoes. Even though the Kuznetsov design has a lot of problems, at 65,000 tons, it will still take punishment. But killing some of the destroyers will set the stage for the B-1B bombers to launch AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
LRASM anti-ship missile. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Each B-1B can carry up to 24 of those weapons, and soon, each carrier and its surviving escorts will be facing up to 96 of these stealthy missiles closing in. They might get some of the missiles, but enough will get through to sink or cripple the Chinese carriers.

With that, the United States would then proceed to take out the island bases.

In short, China’s first major naval battle against America could very well be the last one.

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What are the reasons for such vaping popularity in the US military nowadays?

Some time ago, when movies were still black and white and Second World War themes were frequently used in screenplays, seeing a soldier with the cigarette both on screen and in public wasn’t a rare occasion. The war was actually the moment when the relationship between the US military and tobacco industry has been established, mainly through advertising. Furthermore,cigarettes were a part of army rations and often used as a valuable trading currency.


After the war, the connection between armed forces and tobacco did not end as many young recruits started smoking soon after they joined the service. Besides being a matter of tradition and way of bonding, smoke breaks were sometimes used in “boot camps” as a form of reward and punishment system. Meanwhile, as it was proofed that smoking influence troop’s readiness and raise health costs, as predicted, the tobacco use was restricted in military facilities not designated as “tobacco use areas”. What could’ve not been predicted was that after 2011 the statistic will change and vape mods will be used rather than tobacco among military personnel.

Statistics and policy changes

According to the Department of Defense report presented in the year 2011, 24 percent of active duty personnel were smokers compared with 19 percent of civilians and 38 percent of the servicemen and women started smoking after enlisting. In the year 2015, studies showed that the number of troopers who are occasional smokers dropped by nearly half, since 2011 — down from 24 percent to 13.9 percent. Overall, the statistic also showed that since 2009 tobacco use rates have decreased in the US army, although it is possible that these numbers are also closely connected with the increased use of vape mode kits.

There are several reasons why these figures are going down, slowly but firmly. The decision to ban tobacco use entirely during recruit training, which was done at most training centers, was an important step in starting to modify the surrounding in order to change military-driven behavioral patterns and reduce tobacco use among service members. It also helped a higher percentage of smokers to quit at a rate higher than would be expected without the ban.Restrictive smoking regulations in military facilities seem to have a significant effect on cigarette consumption too. Enlarged efforts involving educational, motivational, and social changes such as stronger educational messages, including ones orientated toward changing social norms regarding smoking in the military, resulting in a decreased number of new smokers among recruits.

Some military policies which tolerated tobacco use to some point came under the spotlight and their alterations are taken under consideration.For example, starting October 2019 all Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities, which historically permitted smoking in designated areas, will be completely smoke-free, and this new policy will cover all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes and vaping. The policy change ends the use of designated smoking areas at VA hospitals and applies to everyone at VA facilities, including patients, visitors, volunteers, and staff. The fact that this and similar decisions cover vaping as well, shows that the number of army personnel who use e-cigarettes and vape mods significantly increased over the last few years.

Is vaping a new trend in the US army?

The rise of vaping among US troops occurred quickly. According to some researches, made since 2015, 11 percent of service members said they were daily e-cigarette users, while nearly 20 percent of junior enlisted ranks are current e-cigarette smokers. The Marine Corps and Navy have the highest percentage of those vaping among the service branches, at 16 and 14 percent,despite restrictions on e-cigarettes imposed by the Navy a few years ago.

Based on a study of 105 U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers made by University at Buffalo it seems that daily users often see e-cigarettes satisfying or even more satisfying, and less harmful, than cigarettes. According to researchers L.T. Kozlowski and G.G. Homish, perception of danger from e-cigarettes decreased as the frequency of use increased. One finding, related to the perception that participants have had toward vaping products showed that articles which were considered much more satisfying than cigarettes were also perceived as less dangerous than cigarettes.

Financially speaking, switching from smoking to vaping has probably a lot to do with prices of tobacco in military stores. As a result of increased efforts to encourage troops to quit, prices became higher and the sales of traditional tobacco have fallen. As opposed to that, starting with the year 2018, sales of vaping products nearly doubled. A chart that represents these numbers in sales, starting with the year 2013, has a very interesting line: from 2013 it was an upward trend with the peak in 2015, then sales decreased by nearly half till the end of 2017, and was trending up again in 2018.

Judging from the personal experiences shared anonymously by the military personnel vaping has been used to reduce stress while overseas, and after returning home. For some of them, it is a way of relating to flavors of being home which ease their mental strain and helps them to reduce the tension. In some units, smoking is forbidden so using e-cigarettes and mod vape is the only way to cope with the smoking habit.

It is important to underline that in most US army facilities vaping falls under the same rules as all other tobacco products, meaning vaping is only allowed in designated smoking areas. Also, it is necessary to point out that although the health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known, they can contain chemicals that may cause harm to users and those exposed to secondhand vapors

References

1.Terry L. Conway, San Diego State University-Tobacco use and the United States military: a longstanding problem

2.The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)-Military Tobacco Policies: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

3.L.T. Kozlowski, G.G. Homish, University at Buffalo-Daily users compared to less frequent users find vape as or more satisfying and less dangerous than cigarettes, and are likelier to use non-cig-alike vaping products

About the author: Christina Matthews, the journalist who studies the latest news in the health industry. Now she studies the effects of smoking and vaping on health and reasons for such its popularity.

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Communist China is trying to match the US’ newest bomber

As the U.S. continues to develop the B-21 Raider, a long-range, stealth strategic bomber, peers and rivals around the world are working to stay competitive. While Russia works on the PAK DA, Communist China is trying to counter the future backbone of the United States Air Force’s strategic bomber force with a design of their own.


This new bomber, which will likely be operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, is being called the H-20. Details remain sparse, but reports state that it will have a top speed of 600 miles per hour and a maximum range of 5,282 miles. Although we’re not certain about the ordnance it’ll carry, it’s likely that it’ll carry a variety of dumb bombs, smart bombs, and missiles, just like the B-2.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
A B-2 Spirit drops a host of dumb bombs. (USAF photo)

Currently, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force leans heavily on the H-6 Badger as the primary airframe in their strategic bomber force. This plane is a far cry from the original Soviet Tu-16 on which it’s based. The current version, according to MilitaryFactory.com, has a range of 3,728 miles and a top speed of 652 miles per hour. Unlike the up-and-coming H-20, the H-6 doesn’t have stealth technology, and while its range allows it to operate against naval units in the South China Sea, it doesn’t have the reach to hit American bases in Guam or Okinawa.

The Chinese Communists used the H-6 to send a message in December 2016, when one of these bombers flew along the so-called “nine-dash line,” which delineates Chinese claims in the South China Sea. About 180 of these bombers were built and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has roughly 120 H-6s in service, with another 30 in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
A People’s Liberation Army Air Force H-6K Badger bomber. (Japanese Ministry of Defense photo)

The H-20 is slated to enter service in 2025, coincidentally around the time that the B-21 Raider is set to deploy.

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Peter Everest Air Force Test Pilot

General Frank “Pete” Everest was a record-setting U.S. Air Force Test pilot. As a fighter pilot in World War II he flew over 150 combat missions. He then went on to lead the Air Force flight test program, flying with other legendary pilots like Chuck Yeager and George Welch.

From 1950 to 1956 he flew an average of eight newly designed aircraft a month, setting records like taking the Bell X-1 to an altitude of 73,000 feet and the X-2 to a speed of over 1900 miles per hour, making him the “fastest man alive” at the time. In this episode Pete Everest tells stories of those pioneering days of experimental aircraft and daring test pilots.

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4 keys to achieving your goals from history’s great minds

Every single one of us has potential, but sometimes we suck at life.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself and an hour later talked yourself out of it? Or, tried to break a bad habit and fell back into it after uttering the words, “I can’t”? Or, quietly gave up on a passion project because you weren’t disciplined enough to see it through?

At times, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving goals. It’s hardly ever a spouse, coach or boss standing in our way; typically it’s the person we face each day in the mirror.


Steven Pressfield has named this internal force that keeps us from reaching our full potential Resistance. He writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

History is filled with individuals who overcame their own resistance to discover, to create, and to invent. Their examples can help us overcome our fight against resistance and achieve our goals, quit our bad habits and see our passion projects through to completion.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Hernan Cortes – Burn your ships

In 1519, Hernan Cortes led an expedition from Cuba to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. Once coming ashore, his men were divided on what to do next. Some wanted to return to Cuba; others wanted to move forward. Infighting broke out among the factions. He had to focus his men, so he destroyed his ships. Returning to Cuba was now out of the question, so they set their sights on their mission and went on to defeat the Aztecs and conquer Mexico.

Sometimes, to accomplish our goals we need to burn the ships and move out. We need to make a rash decision and force ourselves to live with the consequences. This could be done by closing a professional door, making that purchase we’ve been wrestling with, or signing up for the course we’ve been putting off.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Victor Hugo – Lock your clothes away

In late 1830, Victor Hugo had a problem. He promised his publisher a book by February, but he hadn’t even started it yet. So, he had his servant lock all of his formal clothes in a trunk, leaving him with nothing but his pajamas. It worked. In January he finished his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame ahead of schedule.

Hugo locked himself into what psychologists call a commitment device. This is a term used to describe the extra step we take to protect ourselves from breaking our commitment. Hugo couldn’t get his clothes back until he finished his manuscript. Other examples include deleting social media apps from our phone so we will be less likely to pick it up every five minutes. Or setting a punishment if you fail to complete your project; this could be giving away money or doing 1000 burpees if you don’t reach the milestones you’ve set for yourself.
Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Thomas Edison – Make an announcement

Thomas Edison was a great inventor. He received 1093 patents, more than any single person in U.S. history. But, he also recognized that he could procrastinate on projects. So, he would talk about how great his idea was to a journalist. In doing so, his ideas started generating publicity. Once people started talking about it, Edison had to complete it; otherwise he would be ridiculed.

When we put our pride or reputation on the line, we increase the stakes. By telling others what we want to set out to accomplish, we are more apt to follow through with our projects. We don’t want to show up empty-handed next time they ask us about it, so we increase our chances of following through with it.

Fight the resistance

The resistance is real, but it doesn’t have to stop us in our tracks. We don’t need to be paralyzed by inaction when it comes to goal accomplishment. Next time you feel resistance creeping up, burn the ships, lock away your clothes and tell someone about it. Don’t let yourself get in the way of greatness.

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Navy to deploy first underwater drones from submarines

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Remus 600 (Photo: Office of Naval Research)


The Navy will deploy its first underwater drones from Virginia-class attack submarines for the first time in history later this year, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare said Monday.

The deployment will include the use of the Remus 600 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, or UUVs, performing undersea missions in strategic locations around the globe, Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, told Military.com at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space annual symposium at National Harbor, Md.

“Now you are talking about a submarine CO who can essentially be in two places at the same time – with a UUV out deployed which can do dull, dirty and dangerous type missions. This allows the submarine to be doing something else at the same time,” Tofalo said.  “UUVs can help us better meet our combatant command demand signal. Right now, we only meet about two-thirds of our combatant commanders demand signals and having unmanned systems is a huge force multiplier.”

The Remus 600 is a 500-pound, 3.25-meter long UUV equipped with dual-frequency side-scanning sonar technology, synthetic aperture sonar, acoustic imaging, video cameras and GPS devices, according to information from its maker, Hyrdoid.

The Remus 600 is similar to the BLUEFIN Robotics UUVs, such as the BLUEFIN 21, that were used to scan the ocean floor in search of the wreckage of the downed Malaysian airliner last year.

The upcoming deployment of the Remus 600 is part of a larger Navy effort to use existing commercial off-the-shelf technology, Tofalo explained.

“We’re using commercial off-the-shelf technologies to do real world missions for the combatant commander. The oil and gas industry uses these things for all kinds of functions. The submarine force will be adapting this. The sensors are similar to the sensors that the oil and gas industry might use. They might be surveying where their oil pipes are, whereas we might want to be looking for a mine field,” Tofalo said.

The Remus 600s will launch from a 11-meter long module on the Virginia-class submarines called the dry deck shelter which can launch divers and UUVs while submerged.

Sonar technology uses acoustic or sound-wave technology to bounce signals off an object and analyze their return to learn the size, shape, distance and dimensions, Tofalo explained.

“It is similar to radar (electromagnetic) except from an acoustic standpoint. Sonar sensors use acoustics to create a picture that a trained operator can use to discern what they are looking at. It has gotten so good that it is almost like looking at a picture,” he added.

Alongside efforts to make preparations for the first deployment of commercially available UUVs from the Virginia-class attack submarines, the Navy is also planning at-sea tests this year of a UUV launching technology which uses the boat’s torpedo tubes. The at-sea test will examine the technological interface between a UUV and the missile tube as a launcher, Tofalo explained.

The Navy has been working on developing an 85-foot long section of the Virginia-class submarines called the Virginia Payload Modules. This would help submarines launch both missiles and UUVs from the submarine.

“For the large diameter UUV itself, what we want to have is an interface that allows it to come out of that Virginia Payload Module tube. To do that we need an arm that can extend itself with a little platform that can extend itself and go to the vertical,” Tofalo said.

At the same time, the Office of Naval Research is preparing to unveil a new autonomous 30-foot UUV prototype called the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, or LDUUV.

The LDUUV is a prototype which may take a variety of different forms in coming years as the technology evolves, said Bob Freeman, ONR spokesman. The LDUUV is being engineered for greater endurance and energy, he added. It will also be autonomous and able to navigate itself through the undersea domain.

Alongside UUVs, the Navy is also experimenting with launching aerial drones from submarines as well, Tofalo said.

The service is testing the Switchblade, which can launch from a small signal injector tube from the side of the submarine. The Switchblade, built by AeroVironment, is a battery-powered unmanned aerial vehicle that can carry three pounds worth of explosives, Tofalo added.

He added that the Navy is also testing a longer-endurance submarine-launched UAV called XFC, an acronym for experimental fuel cell. XFC, which can be launched from a torpedo tube, can stay in the air for nine to ten hours.

“These are ways that a submarine can extend its horizon. They have been tested and we’re continuing to work on making them more definitive programs of record,” Tofalo said.

Here’s the Remus 600 being deployed from a surface ship:

More from Military.com

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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This is the ‘Achilles Heel’ for the US’ fight against ISIS

An ISIS expert claims there is a glaring “Achilles heel” present in the US strategy in Iraq and Syria, stating that the lack of any planning for the political future of the region after the terrorist group is wiped out will nullify the military gains made against the group.


And while the fall of ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria might mark a significant gain against the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State, there is much work left to be done.

“Only a fool would call this a victory,” Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and the co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” told The New Yorker. “It’s only the expulsion of ISIS fighters from a wasteland. It’s not a victory, not only because of the destruction. It’s also not a victory because there’s a shameless lack of a political track to supplement the military track. That’s the Achilles heel of Operation Inherent Resolve. They don’t have a political vision about what will happen after ISIS.”

Related: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

The destruction Hassan mentions is almost total in Raqqa. The activist journalism group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently claims that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting between ISIS, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and the US coalition.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

The group has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes and 1,873 civilian deaths throughout the urban battle, and says 450,000 people remain displaced from the city.

Yet Hassan’s main argument is that the main threat to the success of the US-led mission is that there is no political plan for what will come after ISIS’s territorial defeat.

Also Read: ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Professor Robert Pape, the director of the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago, said he agrees.

“When we invaded and conquered Iraq in 2003 we created ungoverned space for Sunni Arabs in Iraq which then spilled over in nearby Syria,” Pape says. “The worry here is that as that area of Iraq and Syria now could remain ungoverned space from the perspective of the Sunni Arabs, this problem may just simply fester and continue.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa was been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

ISIS, and the war to defeat it, has inflicted enormous violence upon the Sunni Arabs of the region, and its effects will stick with the Sunni populations of Iraq and Syria for generations.

And throughout the campaign to liberate Sunni regions previously under the the rule of ISIS, Iraq has employed Shiite militias with ties to Iran, called the Popular Mobilization Forces, which have been suspicious of Sunni villagers in conquered ISIS territory. Iraq’s own security forces have also frequently resorted to brutality against civilians in places like Mosul, which was an ISIS stronghold until recently.

Meanwhile, vast swaths of eastern Syria remain controlled by Kurdish-led militias in the form of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or by the Shiite-led Syrian government.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
An instructor with the Syrian Democratic Forces observes a trainee clearing his rifle during small arms training in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan.

An additional yet significant ethnic challenge lies in how to divide power between Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis in Syria and Iraq after the dust settles. Already, Iraq’s central government is asserting itself in regions controlled by Kurds around Kirkuk and Mosul, where clashes have occurred.

Such post-conflict realities in the Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria have led to widespread distrust between locals and the governments and militaries that now control them and have deepened the same feelings of political isolation among Sunnis that led to the rise of ISIS between 2007 and 2013.

According to Hassan, the “Achilles heel” of the US-led coalition’s strategy is that it makes no preparations to resolve these complex problems, and focuses solely on a military victory over ISIS. In his view, such a limited approach will only hasten the return of another Sunni insurgent movement in the region.

Asperiores odit

South Korean troops on DMZ are ready for anything

South Korean and American troops on and near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea are ready, well-supplied, well-trained, and prepared, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman said following a visit over the weekend.


Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell accompanied his boss, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to South Korea. But where the general participated in the Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting with his Korean counterpart, Troxell used his time to get a feel for what life is like on “Freedom’s Frontier” in light of current tensions.

The DMZ is a place where North Korean troops are studying every action on the southern side. They continually probe, test, and push for a reaction from the South Korean troops that man most of the DMZ.

The unit Troxell visited — the 1st Republic of Korea Division’s 1st Reconnaissance Battalion — was the victim of a North Korean intrusion across the DMZ three years ago and had soldiers wounded in a minefield laid by North Korean special operations forces.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his visit to the Demilitarized Zone in the Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2015. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

Unfiltered Look at the North

“I felt the need to go up to the Demilitarized Zone outside of the Joint Security Area and go to an area where I could get an unfiltered look at the North Koreans and what their demeanor, what their disposition, what their posture was in light of all of this rhetoric,” Troxell said.

He also just wanted to talk with South Korean troops to get a feel for their morale and readiness, he said.

The sergeant major’s previous job was as the senior enlisted leader for US Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.

He said he did not notice much difference in the North Koreans across the line. “They were on security,” he said. “They were observing into the South, especially when I got there — a lot of folks with binoculars trying to figure out what we were doing. But their patrols did not seem like they were in any more enhanced readiness than what they normally are.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Soldiers from the Korean People’s Army look south while on duty in the Joint Security Area. Army photo by Edward N. Johnson.

Despite the rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans were carrying on business as usual, he said. On the North Korean side, there are heavy weapons in contravention of the UN-brokered armistice signed in 1953. The North kicked out the two armistice guarantor nations — Poland and Czechoslovakia — when the Soviet Union fell.

“We still have the Swiss and the Swedes in the southern part of the DMZ that are making sure that the [South Koreans] and the US aren’t breaking any rules, in accordance with the armistice,” the sergeant major said.

The assumption in the south is that the North Koreans are breaking the rules and allied forces have to plan accordingly, he said.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
A South Korean soldier stands guard within the Joint Security Area of the DMZ. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Frail’ Troops

And there are a lot of North Korean troops. “There’s 750,000 North Korean troops on the DMZ, out of a more than 1.1 million man and woman force,” Troxell said. “But we haven’t seen them do a combined arms maneuver in 20 years. They fire about five to 10 rounds out of their rifles a year. And a good part of them have been diagnosed as being medically frail.”

“But there are 750,000 of them,” he continued. “So if you end up in conflict and you got full magazines of ammunition, you better not miss.”

Also Read: This is what the North Korean military looks like

And the North Koreans have been indoctrinated since birth on the infallibility of the Kim family. “If we have to go into high-end conflict, the North Koreans are going to fight,” Troxell said. “They’re prepared to fight and defend their country and defend who they call the Great Leader.”

On the South Korean side, the troops were patrolling and ready, the sergeant major said. They are a learning Army, he said, and have learned from the incident where the infiltrators came in. “They’ve really upgraded their positions,” Troxell said. “They’ve cut back all of the foliage from around their guard posts and the gates to get into the DMZ. They’ve also reinforced with, you know, better cameras and everything, so they have [fewer] blind spots that the North Koreans can exploit.”

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Ready to Fight’

A bit farther back, the sergeant major met with American soldiers. “Obviously, they pay attention a lot more to the news than the [South Koreans] do, and certainly more than the North Koreans,” he said. “There was a lot more heightened sense of, ‘Hey, we got to be ready.'”

The rotational brigade — now from the 1st Cavalry Division — goes through a decisive action training rotation at the National Training Center in California and then deploys to the Korean Peninsula. “Those guys and gals are absolutely prepared for high-end conflict because they’ve been certified in it,” Troxell said. “They’re ready to fight.”

American units are training and focusing on potential threats, one of which is North Korea’s use of tunnels. “Subterranean warfare is something we have to continue to prepare for,” the sergeant major said. “As a matter of fact, the Army is making subterranean warfare part of their doctrine, and the Marines are going that way too.”

South Korean and US soldiers serve together closely. The 2nd Infantry Division, which is the divisional headquarters there, is now a combined division, with South Korean and US officers and non-commissioned officers on their division staff. “If you look at the 2nd Infantry Division patch, … it says combined division over their patch now,” he said.

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2nd Infantry Combined Division. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The 2nd Infantry Division is also certified at all levels of combat.

Building Mil-to-Mil Relationships

The members of the division continually look for ways to enhance the military-to-military relationship, Troxell said, especially in their noncommissioned officer corps. The South Koreans are looking “to better develop their squad leaders and platoon sergeants to operate effectively at the decentralized level and operate off of commanders’ intent and apply discipline initiative to get after combat, if they have to,” he said. “They really look at the noncommissioned officer corps in the United States military, and they want theirs to be like that.”

There are cultural differences that have to be overcome and much of the South Korean military is made up of conscripts. But, South Koreans have served alongside the US in every contingency since the Korean War, Troxell said, and they see that the American military expands the commander’s reach in the battlespace by empowering noncommissioned officers to act without being told.

This is especially needed in terrain like that at the DMZ, which is mountainous. “It’s a cluttered battlefield,” he said, “and it will call for decentralized execution to defeat the North Koreans. That means we’ve got to continue to have empowered enlisted leaders, because this will be a squad-level fight, more so than it will be a battalion/brigade-level fight.”

Asperiores odit

Belgium is the next country to replace its F-16 fleet with F-35s

The Lockheed F-35 Lightning is replacing the F-16 in many countries. For the most part, if a country is flying F-16s, then it’s a safe bet that they will get the F-35. There may be some exceptions to that rule, of course, but for the most part, it rings true.


One country slated to receive the F-35 is Belgium. F-16.net reports that, at one point, the Belgian Air Component had as many as 160 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons. Many of these planes were manufactured as part of a consortium with Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
One of the first F-16s built for the Belgian Air Force. The F-16s currently in service will be replaced by F-35s. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Rob Schleiffert)

Today, that total stands at 45 F-16AM and nine F-16BM Fighting Falcons. These planes are divided into four operational fighter squadrons primarily equipped with F-16AMs, and one operational conversion unit equipped solely with F-16BMs. This comes out to roughly 11 F-16AMs per squadron.

According to a release on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency website, Belgium will begin to replace its F-16s with F-35s. The planned purchase total, coming in at just over $6.5 billion, is 34 F-35A Lightnings and 38 F135 engines (one for each F-35, plus four spares). This comes out to eight and a half F-35s per squadron.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
The second F-35 for the Netherlands rolls out of the hangar. The Dutch also helped produce the F-16. (Lockheed Martin photo)

Now, this may just be the first batch of planes, in which case, it comes out to a more reasonable 17 planes per squadron. A Belgian media report in 2016 noted that the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet were also considered by the Belgian government.

In what seems to be a repeat of history, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark are all buying the F-35 to replace the F-16. In recent years, the Belgian Air Component has seen action in the War on Terror, the NATO intervention in Libya, and has also taken part in the Baltic Air Policing mission, often using F-16AMs.

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