The top US admiral in the Middle East said on Sept. 18 that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise and far-reaching.
Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping to fuel one side of the war in Yemen, in which rebels from the country’s north, Al Houthis, ousted the government from the capital of Sana’a in 2014.
The officer, Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining Al Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines, and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border. The US, the Yemeni government and their allies in the region have retaliated with strikes of their own and recaptured some Al Houthi-held coastal areas to help blunt threats to international shipping, but the peril persists, the admiral said.
“These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict,” said Donegan. “It’s not rocket science to conclude that Al Houthwis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them.”
Donegan gave his assessment in an hour-long telephone interview from his 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain as he prepared to conclude his two-year tour, and take a new assignment at the Pentagon.
In the wide-ranging interview, Donegan said that the bitter rift between Qatar and many of its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who accuse Qatar of financing militants and having overly cozy relations with Iran, has not yet hindered coalition efforts to battle terrorism, piracy, or other mutual maritime scourges. Donegan’s most pointed accusations focused on suspected Iranian assistance to Al Houthi rebels. The US and other Western governments have provided vast quantities of weapons, and other forms of military support, to the embattled Yemeni government and its allies in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, contributing to violence that the UN says has caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties.
The admiral’s charges appear supported, at least in part, by findings in a report late last year by Conflict Armament Research, a private arms consultancy. The report concluded that the available evidence pointed to an apparent “weapon pipeline, extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.”
For years, Iran has been under a series of international sanctions prohibiting it from exporting arms. The US has frequently claimed that Tehran has violated the sanctions in support of proxy forces in many conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories.
Between September 2015 through March 2016, allied warships interdicted four Iranian dhows that yielded, in total, more than 80 anti-tank guided missiles and 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns and almost 300 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to data provided by the US Navy.
Donegan said that while there have been no seizures since, he said he suspects Iran’s hand in Al Houthis’ apparent ability to replenish and improve their arms stockpiles. “It is not something that was a one-time deal and stopped,” Donegan said. “It appears to be progressive.”
The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corp during World War II to conduct special amphibious assault missions, operating behind the lines. The Raiders were created by an order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the first battalions activated in February 1942. The Marine Raiders are said to be the first U.S. special forces operations to form and see combat in World War II. William Lansford was a member of the 2nd Raider Battalion during the Pacific campaigns. These are his dramatic stories told in his own words.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
‘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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The idea behind the Immortal Regiment is to honor the memory of the heroes who earned a hard-won victory over Nazi Germany.”
“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.”
“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.”
“We took pictures of everything and that includes a SUV that was transformed into a Katyusha rocket launcher.”
All photos are owned by Felipe Tofani, and used by permission. See Tofani’s original post on Fotostrasse.
By 1942, the skies over Germany were aflame with German fighters battling Allied bombers for the survival of Europe and the free world. Central to victory in this air war were the fighter planes of the Allies. At first they were obsolete and woefully inadequate. But with the advent of advanced aircraft like the P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang, the tide of war was about to change. In this episode we hear the powerful words of fighter aces Clarence “Bud” Anderson in his revolutionary North American P-51 and Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, flying the Republic P-47, as they battle the Luftwaffe in the war torn skies over Europe during World War II.
Eager to invade France, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler demanded a new weapon that could easily pierce the concrete fortifications of the French Maginot Line — the only major physical barrier standing between him and the rest of western Europe.
In 1941, German steelmaker and arms manufacturer Krupp A.G. built Hitler the “Gustav Gun,” the largest gun ever used in combat, according to Military Channel’s “Top Secret Weapons” documentary.
The four-story, 155-foot-long gun, which weighs 1,350 tons, shot 10,000-pound shells from its mammoth 98-foot bore.
The massive weapon was presented to the Nazi’s free of charge to show Krupp’s contribution to the German war effort, according to historian C. Peter Chen.
In the spring of 1942, the Germans debuted the mighty “Gustuv gun”at the Siege of Sevastopol. The 31-inch gun barrel fired 300 shells on Sevastopol.
However, as the Nazi’s would soon find out, the ostentatious gun had some serious disadvantages:
Its size made it an easy target for Allied bombers flying overhead
Its weight meant that it could only be transported via a costly specialized railway (which the Nazi’s had to build in advance)
It required a crew of 2,000 to operate
The 5-part gun took four days to assemble in the field and hours to calibrate for a single shot
It could only fire 14 rounds a day
Within a year, the Nazi’s discontinued the “Gustav gun,” and Chen notes that Allied forces eventually scrapped the massive weapon.
Fighter pilots have to pass a lot of tests before they get control of a jet. One of their first tests is the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test. We’ve pulled 15 questions from Air Force Personnel Test 997, an information pamphlet on the AFOQT. All questions included here are questions that would, on the AFOQT, count towards the pilot composite score. (We’ve also included awesome jet photos whenever a visual isn’t needed to answer a question. You’re welcome . . .)