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

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.

Asperiores odit

Armored Warfare in World War Two

D-Day was only the beginning.  The Allied assault on June 6th, 1944 launched a bloody offensive that wouldn’t end until Hitler’s Reich lay in ruins.  

The battlefields are forever etched in the memories of the men who were there… the hedgerows of Normandy, to the breakthrough at St. Lo, The Battle of the Bulge, and the capture of Berlin.  In this episode, veterans of the 3rd Armored Division, Belton Cooper and Bertrand Close, transport us to the Race Across Europe in World War Two.

Asperiores odit

The German military has a reality show and it’s actually awesome

The modern German Armed Forces, the Bundeswher, are more or less the pioneers of good ideas within NATO. The HK G36 is a beautiful rifle, beards are encouraged in the service, they promote drinking beer during ruck marches, and, more recently, they started an official YouTube series that showcases the lives of their troops.


Writer’s Note: Bear in mind, the episodes are in German, so you’ll need to turn the subtitles/CC on and, in settings, turn the text to “Auto-translate: English” to understand what’s going on.

Starting last year with the show Die Rekruten, or The Recruits, the show follows the lives of twelve recruits as they enter training and, eventually, as they move on with their career. The recruits are from each branch of the Bundeswher and the series gives viewers a taste of what’s to be expected from a life in the service. Die Rekruten ran almost daily for over three months. After the recruits graduated and moved on to their unit, they were each given what’s essentially a where-are-they-now special.

 

(YouTube | Bundeswehr Exclusive)

 

After Die Rekruten was over, the official Bundeswher YouTube channel transitioned into a spotlight for deployed German troops. Along with troops in Afghanistan, Germany also has a large contingent of deployed troops in Mali in support of the Global War on Terror.

The Mali series began by following soldiers as they were deployed and finished last month with the troops returning back to Germany in time for the holidays.

 

(YouTube | Bundeswher Exclusive)

 

Germany has always held up its end of the NATO bargain, falling shy of only the United Kingdom in NATO military spending, troops, equipment, and vehicles. However, with each year, their number of active duty troops shrinks. The reality shows are an attempt to recuperate those losses.

The idea behind the YouTube channel was to raise recruitment in the post-conscription era by showing troops as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. When mandatory conscription was abolished six years ago, recruitment numbers plummeted. The channel is relatively cheap to maintain and has since become Germany’s most successful social media project to date.

 

Asperiores odit

North Korea may have had no idea US bombers were so close during latest flyby

Military analysts say North Korea doesn’t have either the capability or the intent to attack US bombers and fighter jets, despite the country’s top diplomat saying it has every right do so.


They view the remark by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and a recent propaganda video simulating such an attack as tit-for-tat responses to fiery rhetoric by US President Donald Trump and his hardening stance against the North’s nuclear weapons program.

By highlighting the possibility of a potential military clash on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea may be trying to create a distraction as it works behind the scenes to advance its nuclear weapons development, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Another possibility is that North Korea is trying to win space to save face as it contemplates whether to de-escalate its standoff with Washington, he said Sept. 26.

Speaking to reporters before leaving a UN meeting in New York, Ri said Trump had “declared war” on his country by tweeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer.” Ri said North Korea has “every right” to take countermeasures, including shooting down US strategic bombers, even when they’re not in North Korean airspace.

 

The US frequently sends advanced warplanes to the Korean Peninsula for patrols or drills during times of animosity. Last weekend, US bombers and fighter escorts flew in international airspace east of North Korea to the farthest point north of the border between North and South Korea that they have in this century, according to the Pentagon.

Hours after the flights Sept. 24, a North Korean government propaganda website posted a video portraying US warplanes and an aircraft carrier being destroyed by attacks. The video on DPRK Today, which was patched together from photos and crude computer-generated animation, also included footage of North Korean solid-fuel missiles being fired from land mobile launchers and a submarine. The North was clearly trying to claim it has the ability to conduct retaliatory strikes against US attacks, said Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nz9AE15nD0M
(stimmekoreas | YouTube) 

Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current senior analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said it’s highly unlikely North Korea has the real-world capability to match Ri’s words. North Korea’s aging MiG fighters won’t stance a chance against much more powerful US fighters escorting long-range bombers. And while North Korea touted in May that it’s ready to deploy new surface-to-air missiles that analysts say could potentially hit targets as far as 150 kilometers (93 miles) away, it’s questionable how much of a threat the unproven system could pose to US aircraft operating far off the country’s coast, Moon said.

It’s also unclear whether North Korea would be able to even see the advanced US warplanes when they come. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing on Sept. 26 that the North’s inadequate radar systems failed to detect the B-1B bombers as they flew east of North Korea.

The last time North Korea fired on a US aircraft was in 1994 when it shot down a US Army helicopter around the heavily armed inter-Korean border, killing one of the pilots and capturing the other. The surviving pilot said after his release he was pressured by North Korean officials to confess that the helicopter had crossed into North Korea. In 1969, a North Korean fighter jet shot down an unarmed US reconnaissance plane and killed all 31 crewmembers on board.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Republic of Korea F-15K fighters drop munitions over Pilsung Range during operations alongside U.S. F-35B stealth fighters and B-1B Lancer bombers. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

It’s highly unlikely North Korea would attempt a similar attack now, experts say. Amid tension created by the North’s nuclear weapons tests and threat to detonate a thermonuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean, such an attack would pretty much guarantee retaliation from the United States that could lead to war, Cha said.

“The most obvious reason Ri made those comments was because North Korea simply can’t tolerate such high-profile insults to its supreme leadership,” Cha said. It’s also possible that the North is trying to fan concerns about a potential military clash in the region now so that it can win room to save face later when it tries to de-escalate, he said.

“If Kim Jong Un ever offers a moratorium on his missile tests or makes whatever other compromise, he could say he made a big-picture decision to reduce military tension in the Korean Peninsula,” Cha said. He said Ri’s comments also allow China and Russian to restate their calls for a “dual suspension” of North Korean weapons tests and displays of military capability by the US and South Korea.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Weapons dropped from U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

The Trump administration’s stance on North Korea has been hardening in recent months as the North has been stepping up the aggressiveness of its nuclear and missile tests. It conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was a thermonuclear weapon built for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It tested two ICBMs in July, displaying their potential ability to reach deep into the continental United States. North Korea has also fired two powerful midrange missiles over Japan in recent weeks.

Trump in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked, which prompted Kim to pledge to take the “highest-level” action against the United States. Ri then said North Korea might conduct the “most powerful” atmospheric hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean, but added that no one knew what Kim would decide.

Asperiores odit

WWII Fighter Ace Flies In Korea

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.

Asperiores odit

Here’s how US Air Force pilots learn to fly French Mirage fighters

The pilots in the U.S. Air Force fly a bunch of planes. The F-15 Eagle, the C-17 Globemaster, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Mirage 2000D… Wait, that can’t be right. The Mirage 2000D is a French plane, and not in service with the Air Force.


Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Four 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions are released from an F-15E during a developmental test at Edwards Air Force Base in 2002. Photo courtesy of USAF.

Yet, that list is accurate. Right now, Maj. Raymond “Banzai” Rounds of the U.S. Air Force is based out of Ochey Air Base in France, flying with the Armee de l’Air. The French have three squadrons of Mirage 2000Ds.

In one sense, the Mirage 2000D is like the F-15E. Both are multi-role fighters that are based on air-superiority planes (the Mirage 2000C and the F-15).

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
A Mirage 2000D at Kandahar air base. (Wikimedia Commons)

According to Military-Today.com, the Mirage 2000D is capable of carrying a wide variety of air-to-surface weapons, including dumb bombs, laser-guided bombs, Exocet anti-ship missiles, APACHE and SCALP missiles, the AS-30L missile, and rocket pods. It can also carry Magic 2 air-to-air missiles.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
This is just one possible loadout the Mirage 2000D can carry. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Air Force has a program that enables pilots like Rounds to do exchange tours with other countries’ militaries. But that’s not the only exchange.

There are also inter-service exchanges, where members of American military services fly with a unit in another American service. Perhaps the most famous of those pilots is Marine John Glenn, who scored three MiG kills while flying with the Air Force’s 51st Fighter Wing.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
The F-86F flown by John Glenn during his exchange tour with the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

Rounds’s exchange tour will last for two years. After that, he will return the Air Force and bring over lessons he’s learned from the French.

You can see a video from the Joint Forces Channel that not only discusses Rounds’s exchange tour, but also what it takes to support the airmen who taken on these tours, below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqxUtiCyQHI
Asperiores odit

Here’s why the Coast Guard’s HH-65 Dolphin is so awesome (Video)

The HH-65 Dolphin is the Coast Guard’s most ubiquitous helicopter. The search and rescue aircraft is certified for operation in all-weather conditions and at night. While typically deployed from shore, HH-65s can also be operated from Coast Guard cutters and polar icebreakers.


The HH-65 isn’t the only cool toy the Coast Guard has. Check out 6 cool Coast Guard systems from the past.

Asperiores odit

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.

Asperiores odit

Hack’n’Slash Friday: Who says tomahawks aren’t ‘tactical?’

If you were lucky enough to make it out to Agency Arms’ full auto shindig during SHOT Show 2017, you might’ve seen assorted burly dudes and barrel chested former freedom fighters hurling axes at a target. Why? Because lots of barrel chested freedom fighters still use tomahawks.


Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
…and you don’t want to see what the Patriot does to the next Redcoat. (GIF: YouTube/Capta1n Krunch)

“But wait, Swingin’ Dick!” we hear you say. “Tomahawks haven’t been used since the days of Rogers’ Rangers and that American Revolution movie with an Australian in it! Isn’t this counterintuitive?”

To which we reply, “False. They’re using tomahawks right now in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The Soldier Enhancement Program has been studying it, the combat development team at the US Army Infantry School has discussed its use — hell a platoon of the 101st were issued ‘hawks at Ft. Campbell just to see if the Joes would use it. And don’t forget all the SOF guys who use Winkler or RMJ ‘hawks — oh, and nice use of the word counterintuitive too.”

Grunts: counterintuitive.

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises
Nice ‘hawk Joe!

But, we digress. The specific axe we’re talking about was a custom MCUT, Modular Combat Utility Tool, from Jake Hoback Knives (@jakehobackknives). There were just a few of this particular version made. We’re gonna tell you all about it.

You’re welcome, nasties.

Hoback Modular Combat Utility Tool – MCUT

Hack’n’Slash Friday I: Hatchets and smatchets for rescue and hewin’

The Modular Combat Utility Tool looks very similar to the Hoback Knives logo. That’s hardly an accident.

Jake drew that logo a little over a decade ago (’03?) and has been asked may times over the years to build the axe that logo represents. Well, he finally got around to it…sorta.

We’d show you video and pictures of our own but were never able to get close enough to Jake at SHOT to club him unconscious (or roofie him). You’ll have to settle for these.

Hoback says the MCUT had its genesis in a desire to bring his logo to life in steel, but to do something different from what is an already crowded combat/tactical/taticool tomahawk market. He wanted it to be more than an axe, more than a breaching tool, but not one of those it’s-a-great-concept-but-poor-execution tools that’re often less than truly functional.

He wanted it to be a “Jack of All Trades” type implement, but not a jackin’ off exercise in tactarded futility.

With that in mind he designed the Modular Combat Utility Tool, which is a bit of a mouthful but does look to live up to its name. Here’s a quick rundown.

The base is Type III hard-anodized, 6061T6 aluminum handle, assembled from a total of 7 pieces.

  • Haft
  • Modular head
  • Cover plate
  • Two (2) x ¼-20 stainless black button head cap screws
  • Two (2) x 3/16th hardened stainless dowel pins (three of them)

The top of the haft is built with a machine-tooled pocket that holds the dowels, screws, and cover plate. This is the feature that allows you to switch the MCUT between different configurations dependent on mission and needs.

The first run of custom MCUTs will bear the signature Hoback axes head. Later they will offer heads designed for different tasks (breaching, digging, throwing, an evening of relaxing Úlfheðinn berserkergang, etc.).

Putin is keeping a watchful eye on the Zapad exercises

Hoback promises new videos on his YouTube channel each time he completes one of the new heads.

HOBACK KNIVES MCUT SPECIFICATIONS

  • Modular Head – .1875 Thick 80CrV2 for the Axe Head
  • Haft – .75 Thick, 6061T6 Aluminum, Type III Hard-Anodized, Fully 3D-Machined for Texture
  • Overall Length: 10 in.
  • Main Blade Length: 5 in.
  • Secondary Blade Length – 2.25 in.
  • Haft color – Dark Grey Anodized
  • Head color – TBD
  • Kydex Sheath

You can find the MCUT online right here.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information