The Pentagon says the US State Department has approved the possible sale of the advanced THAAD missile-defense system to Saudi Arabia for $15 billion, citing Iran among threats in the Middle East.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in an Oct. 6 statement that it had notified the US Congress about the possible sale, saying the deal would “support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.”
“This sale furthers US national security and foreign policy interests, and supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region in the face of Iranian and other regional threats,” the statement said.
Washington deployed THAAD, which is used to guard against ballistic-missile attacks, to South Korea this year for defense against North Korea.
Iran maintains one of the largest ballistic-missile programs in the Middle East, seeing it as a key element of defense against the United States and other opponents, including Israel and Gulf Arab states.
Both Washington and Saudi Arabia accuse Tehran of aggressive and disruptive behavior in the region.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.).
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
Born with a birth defect causing seizures, battling anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and facing divorce and separation from a child can be a lot for anyone to handle, but with a community of support, things can get better.
For retired Air Force Capt. Rob Hufford, no statement could ring truer. From an all-time low to bear-hugging England’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, while in Australia to compete in the Invictus Games, things are looking up for Hufford.
“I researched the effect of lingering hugs,” Hufford said. “Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said four hugs a day for maintenance, eight hugs a day for survival, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”
After graduating the Air Force Academy in 2006, Hufford became a civil engineering officer and, over the next nine years, was stationed in four locations and deployed to Iraq twice.
It was during this time that Hufford’s life seemed to fall apart and things began to spiral. He reached the limit on the medicine he could take for his condition, which was a good and bad thing.
The drugs were causing anxiety and anger, but without them, his physical activity was limited until surgery. His outlook became bleak.
In January of 2013, he had a temporal lobectomy to remove a piece of his brain.
Retired Capt. Lawrence “Rob” Hufford yells triumphantly after lifting 418 pounds, setting a personal best in the heavyweight category of power-lifting at the 2018 Invictus Games.
“It was about the size of a tube of Chapstick,” Hufford said.
In 2015, the secretary of the Air Force decided that he should be medically retired. In 2016, his marriage fell apart and he became geographically separated from his son.
Keeping a positive attitude while coping with everything was a constant struggle.
His lifeline came in the form of friend, Dana Lyon, Air Force Academy javelin and strength conditioning coach. She had noticed that Hufford was a shell of what he once was and pushed him to become involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
In June of 2017, he attended Offutt Air Force Base’s AFW2 Caregivers, Adaptive Sports, Resiliency, Empowerment and Transition event. Hufford was able to share his stories with others who were suffering and got to know himself better.
“I could finally see the effects that denial issues and my illnesses had had on my relationships with other people,” Hufford said. “It was a turning point in my life.”
It was also during the CARE event that he heard about the Warrior Games. He applied for the winter trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and was one of 40 selectees and 10 alternates to participate in the games at the Air Force Academy.
Team Air Force athlete Capt. Rob Hufford looks at the scoreboard after competing in the rowing competition during the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)
The next thing he knew, he was invited to participate in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. The event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, was inspired by the Warrior Games created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010.
Hufford said he was honored to see Prince Harry during the sailing event. He called out to the prince to inform him that he could expect to receive a hug when he met him again.The Duke decided that there was no better time than the present and accommodated him with a big bear hug.
As Hufford continues to compete in Wounded Warrior programs, he has also made an effort to pay it forward. He works with Omaha organizations that help to identify what he calls “invisibly wounded” individuals throughout the community.
His efforts don’t go unnoticed.
“Rob is always the person there supporting everyone else regardless of what he is going through,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Support branch chief.
Impressed by his attitude, Gonzales assisted Hufford in returning to Air Force employment.
He is currently the lead engineer for the upcoming Offutt AFB runway restoration project and the Omaha Lincoln Airfields due to kick off in 2019.
This Episode tells the tale of two American pilots of World War II. One, R.T. Smith, was a fighter ace in Burma flying P-40s with the legendary Flying Tigers. He recorded 9 confirmed victories, aiding the Chinese in their conflict with Japan. The other, Al Freiburger, was a bomber pilot in Europe flying B-26 Marauders with his unit, the Silver Streaks. He logged numerous missions in the twin engine, medium bomber including key bombing runs on D-Day. Both men were engaging characters with very unique and dramatic war time experiences.
Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.
While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”
To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.
Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.
But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.
Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.
Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.
In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.
Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.
Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.
For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.
For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.
But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.
So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.
Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.
The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.
Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.
In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.
“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.
For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.
Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.
When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.
Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.
The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bob Hoover learned to fly as a teenager in Tennessee, flew over 50 combat missions in World War Two and went on to become a legendary test pilot. Hoover was Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew the chase plane when Yeager first broke the sound barrier. In 1950 he joined North American Aviation as an experimental test pilot, an association that would last 36 years. This Episode is Part 2 of the remarkable story of Bob Hoover, one of the history’s greatest pilots.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.